DHAKA, Nov 5, 2006 (AFP) – The number of subscribers to Bangladesh’s top mobile phone company exceeded 10 million Sunday as low call rates and cheaper phones led to a surge in customers, GrameenPhone said Sunday. GrameenPhone, a unit of Norwegian telecom company Telenor, said it added 4.5 million subscribers since January, making it the fastest-growing mobile phone company in the impoverished South Asian country of 140 million.

“It is unexpected that we would grow at such a huge speed,” Erik Aas, managing director of GrameenPhone, told journalists.

“When I took over as the chief executive officer in December 2004, the number of subscribers was 2.1 million. Now we have 10 million active subscribers. It’s amazing,” he said.

Aas said he expected GrameenPhone would double its subscribers in the next 15 months.

“We expect the total number of subscribers to reach 50 million by the end of 2009, taking the telecom penetration to about 35 percent of the country’s population,” he said.

GrameenPhone, which launched in 1997, said it had invested more than a billion dollars in network coverage to now cover 95 percent of the country with 60 percent market share.

The rest of the market is shared by the