Mobile operators have urged the telecom regulator to bring in technology neutrality for spectrum use this year so that they can use all the frequency bands to deliver services.
Currently, operators use the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz frequencies to provide voice services; they are not allowed to use these bands for data or 3G.
Operators provide data services (3G) using the 2,100 MHz band, which they purchased last year with $525 million at an auction.
If the operators' demands are met, they will be able to use the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz bands to deliver both voice and data, which will save them from spending additional amounts of money on purchasing more spectrums to deliver the same services.
According to analysts, if the regulator agrees to the demand, the operators will offload 3G or 4G on these two frequency bands, and will not have to buy more spectrums for services.
An official of the regulator said the government will not be able to raise money by selling the 700 MHz band if it allows the operators to use the existing voice bands for data services.
The 700 MHz band is efficient for data services in rural areas, especially for long-term evolution (popularly known as 4G), which provides more data transfer speed than 3G services.
Recently, Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh submitted the suggestion for technology neutrality along with other issues to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, as the regulator has moved to prepare a telecom roadmap.
The top officials of mobile operators requested the regulator to issue the 700 MHz spectrum band by mid-2015, Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of BTRC, told The Daily Star.
This purchase should be aligned with their company budgets, he added.
“We will provide the 700 MHz band by mid-next year.”
The regulator will go for technology neutrality for the 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz band after the auction for the 700 MHz band, Bose added.
AMTOB has recommended the regulator take short-term, mid-term and long-term policy, legal and regulatory reforms, which are to be implemented by the years 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Bose said the telecom roadmap will be prepared after talking with all the operators as it will be a comprehensive plan to help the sector grow; but the spectrum release plan will be set soon.
“The regulatory environment in Bangladesh remains unpredictable in an absence of the roadmap. It is a significant barrier to making potential investment decisions for expansion of connectivity services,” the AMTOB said.
The short-term reforms are telecom policy review, enact rule on the Telecom Act, utilise the social obligation fund, simplify approval process, revise the telecom transmission licensing regime, withdrawal of SIM tax and synchronise telecom taxation with ICT.
The mid-term proposals include amend the Telecom Act to address subscribers' registration, move towards efficient and converged licensing regime, secondary trading of spectrum (allowing the operators to sell their airwaves), and review overall taxation.
Among the long-term reforms, AMTOB demanded policy harmonisation so that the telecom policy can be matched to the education, health, ICT, broadband, broadcasting, media and electronic commerce policies to materialise the government's vision of a Digital Bangladesh.
AMTOB also suggested implementing mobile number portability by 2016 so that subscribers can change operators with keeping the same mobile number.