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Govt earns $885m from telcos


Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar and top officials of Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk attend a media briefing at the end of a spectrum auction at the InterContinental Dhaka hotel Monday. COURTESY

  • Telco
  • Bangladesh News Desk
  • Published: 10 Mar 2021, 10:04 AM

GP snaps up the highest spectrum

Three of the country's four top mobile operators – Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink –bought 27.4 megahertz of spectrumfrom the government for $885.35 million on Monday to improve services and stay competitive in the race for networks following the rise in subscribers.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) arranged an auction for 7.4 megahertz of spectrum in 1800 band and 20 MHz in 2100 band at the Intercontinental Hotel in Dhaka. Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, Secretary Md Afzal Hossain, BTRC Chairman Shyam Sunder Sikder and Vice-chairman Subrata Roy Maitra, among others, were present.BTRC directors general Brigadier General Nasim Parvez and Brigadier General Md Shahidul Alam conducted the auction.

The base price for 1800 band was $31 million per megahertz, and for 2100 band, it was $27 million. The spectrum was given for 15 years.

Grameenphone, the country's leading mobile network operator, snapped up the highest amount of spectrum at the auction. The market leader bought 0.4 MHz in 1800 band and 10MHz in 2100 band at a combined price of $378.75 millionto enhance its service quality and further consolidate its position.After this allocation, its current spectrum in the 1,800 MHz band increased from 19.6 MHz to 20.0 MHz, and in the 2100 MHz band from 10 MHz to 20 MHz, taking its total tally to 40 MHz.

Robi, the second-largest operator, acquired 2.6 MHz in 1800 band and 5 MHz in 2100 band. It has to pay $225.6 million. This takes their 1,800 MHz band tally from 17.4 MHz to 20.0 MHz and from 10 MHz to 15 MHz in the 2,100 MHz band. Banglalink took 4.4 MHz in 1,800 band and 5 MHZ in 2100 band for $281 million.State-run Teletalk took part in the auction for 2100 band but withdrew its bid at one point. It did not participate in the auction for the 1800 band at all.The new acquisition took Grameenphone's total spectrum to 47.4 MHz. Robi will now have 44 MHz and Banglalink 40 MHz. Teletalk's spectrum remains unchanged at 25.2 MHz.

Alongside the spectrum fees, Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink will have to pay 15 per cent VAT as well.The operators will have to deposit 25 per cent of the spectrum price by March 23 this year. The rest will be paid in instalments at 15 per cent per year over a five-year period.

During an auction in 2013, 1800 band was dedicated for 3G service and 900 band for 2G service. In 2018, 2100 band was allowed to provide 4G service.Later, the commission introduced technology neutrality, allowing the operators to offer 2G, 3G and 4G services from any band they see fit. The move is helping them reduce operational costs and improve service quality.

As of February, Grameenphone has 8.04 crore subscribers, Robi Axiata 5.15 crore subscribers, Banglalink 3.59 crore, and Teletalk 55.32 lakh, according to the BTRC. Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, Banglalink CEO Erik Aas, and Grameenphone Chief Financial Officer Jens Becker led their respective teams during the auction.BTRC commissioner AKM Shahiduzzaman presided over the auction.


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