The much awaited spectrum auction scheduled for February 13 has apparently lost competitiveness as only two mobile operators met yesterday's deadline for paying the earnest money required to participate in it.
Banglalink paid Tk 300 crore to bid for two bands while Grameenphone paid Tk 150 crore yesterday for only one band, confirmed a top official of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
Instead, mobile operator Robi has requested the commission to extend the deadline, said a top official of the telecom regulator.
Earnest money is a deposit made to a seller showing the buyer's good faith in a transaction.
State-owned Teletalk did not even apply to attend the auction as it believes to have enough spectrum (25 Megahertz in the 900, 1800 and 2100 bands) to offer 4G service.
Meanwhile Citycell, out of service since October 2016, has missed another scope to return to operations. There was a glimmer of a comeback when BTRC announced that Citycell was eligible for 4G licence and spectrum auction.
With its application, the country's oldest operator had attached a letter of a Chinese company named SKM consulting which showed interest in acquiring all assets and liabilities of Citycell.
As of yesterday, SKM consulting did not finalise its deal with the operator.
A top BTRC official said as Citycell did not qualify for spectrum auction, it would not get 4G licence.
Competitiveness has certainly gone down, Shahjahan Mahmood, BTRC chairman, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He declined commenting on the time extension application.
Md Jahurul Haque, commissioner of BTRC's legal and licensing division, said the guideline has no scope for a time extension.
“If we make an extension, it will give extra benefit to one and be disadvantageous to others,” said Haque, also the convener of the spectrum organising committee.
In the auction, the BTRC will give away 25 MHz in 2100 MHz band with a floor price of $27 million per MHz. It will also put up for sale 18 MHz in the 1800 MHz band and 3.4 MHz in the 900 MHz band, both starting off with $30 million per MHz.
Operators will have to pay separately for technological neutrality if they want to offer services through any technology (2G/3G/4G/LTE) using any of the frequencies they get.
BTRC's initial plan was to earn about Tk 11,000 crore from spectrum sale and allowing technological neutrality, which will improve service quality.
Robi has already got a go-ahead from the BTRC for technology neutrality.
Now, the telecom watchdog hopes to earn about Tk 1,000 crore from tech neutrality and a few hundred crores of taka from spectrum auction, which will be a big blow to the regulator's earnings estimates.