4G auction in Jan as PM removes hurdles

4G auction

All the barriers to rolling out 4G mobile services have now been cleared after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also in charge of the telecom ministry, gave a go-ahead to the revised guideline on spectrum auction.

“All the issues raised by the mobile operators have been addressed,” said a top official of the telecom division.

The Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission will now move to hold an auction for spectrum allocation and 4G licence.

The auction can be expected in January next year and not in December as previously planned. BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood is yet to get the approved copy of the guideline from the prime minister. Once that arrives, the commission will publish an advertisement for the auction.

“We will not wait for a single day after getting the revised guideline,” Mahmood said, adding that people should be able to enjoy the new service as soon as the licences are awarded since mobile operators are all set for rollout.

The telecom regulator will give the mobile operators less than two weeks to submit their applications, after which it will take another 45 days to arrange the auction, said a top official of the regulator.

Earlier in September, the telecom division approved the guideline on 4G licensing that was picked apart by the operators, with about two dozens of concerns being raised.

The parent companies of the top three mobile operators even threatened to boycott 4G licensing.

After that, Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy took the initiative to address the operators' concerns.

One of the demands of the operators was to cut down the price of spectrum for technological neutrality, which will empower them to deliver better service quality. They asked for it to be slashed to $4 million per megahertz of spectrum from $7.5 million.

As per their wishes, the government has also allowed the operators to borrow from local banks -- a move that will ultimately help banks as they are sitting on idle money.

Earlier, the telecom watchdog had recommended making it mandatory that all investment be in foreign currency.

As per the new decision, the operators will not be required to obtain no-objection certificates from the telecom regulator in advance about their corporate social responsibility projects.

They will also not need to go for an initial public offering, which the previous guideline had called for.

What would constitute as 4G speed has also been redefined: it would now be only 20 Mbps instead of 1 Gbps.

The previously approved guideline also empowered the regulator to confiscate all the unused balance of users. The clause has now been dropped in the revised guideline.

As per the new guideline, the operators will have to store subscribers' usage data for only two years and not 12 years as previously stipulated.

The part that said the telecom regulator can change the percentage of revenue sharing from time to time -- a clause that created panic among operators -- has been scrapped entirely.

The operators will now have to share 5.5 percent of their revenues from 4G service with the telecom regulator and the percentage will remain the same for the next 15 years.


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