1469_ri_image. Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju

Government agrees to revise mobile licence renewal terms

The government of Bangladesh has agreed to revise the draft 2G mobile network operating licence renewal terms and to keep spectrum fees at a ‘rational’ level, following negotiations with cellcos. As reported by local newspaper The Daily Star, telecoms minister Rajiuddin Ahmed Raju announced that the renewal framework drafted by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) would be revised after meetings were held with four mobile operators, namely GrameenPhone, Banglalink, Robi and CityCell. An agreement on the draft spectrum fee levels – criticised as too high by the operators – has yet to be finalised, but the minister stated that ‘fees will be reconsidered and kept at [a] rational level,’ following further meetings involving the Finance Ministry. The government will finalise the licensing guidelines by 31 May 2011 and will give operators three further months to apply for renewal. The licensing process is scheduled to be completed by November 2011.

According to the BTRC’s draft submitted in 2010, the operators will have to pay varying amounts for each megahertz of radio spectrum depending on utilisation, under a framework which has been called too complicated and ‘unjustified’ by some operators, and is now under review. Under the draft scheme, market leader GrameenPhone was set to pay nearly double the fees of nearest rivals Banglalink and Robi. According to the report, it has also been proposed that a social obligation fund contribution should be reduced from 1.5% of revenue to 0.5%, whilst all ‘non-licensing issues’ – such as obligations to float 30% of company shares on the stock market, provide mobile number portability, adhere to employment regulations and offer certain value added services – will be taken out of the draft licensing document for separate resolution at a future date. It is also proposed that operators will be allowed to deposit spectrum charges in instalments rather than in a single payment.

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