The telecom regulator yesterday sought permission from the government to put the final nail in the coffin of the country's oldest mobile operator, Citycell, as the beleaguered company cannot pay its dues of Tk 477.69 crore.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission sought permission from the government to cancel Citycell's licence as per the law, said a senior official of the telecom watchdog.
“We have completed all other formalities like serving showcase notices and other processes and now we are going to cancel its licence,” said a BTRC commissioner.
The move comes after the BTRC had brought down the curtains on Citycell's operations on October 20 by suspending its spectrum.
“The spectrum suspension is permanent and there is no scope to reverse it,” Tarana Halim, state minister for telecom, told reporters at a media briefing on October 20.
Citycell's dues include spectrum renewal fee of Tk 229 crore, annual licence fee of Tk 10 crore, annual spectrum fee of Tk 27.14 crore, VAT Tk 39.92 crore and late fees of Tk 135 crore.
The Supreme Court in September ordered Citycell to pay two-thirds of the amount, Tk 318.42 crore, by October 19. The operator managed to pay Tk 130 crore.
On October 20, Citycell went to the Supreme Court for a direction on restoring their spectrum as they paid their dues as per the court order, said a top executive of the operator, requesting anonymity.
“We have started the process for licence cancellation and it will be placed before the prime minister for her consent,” said the BTRC official. Earlier on July 31, the regulator asked Citycell customers to switch to other operators by August 16 as its operations will soon go off air.
Citycell started its operations in 1993, with its subscription reaching a peak of 19 lakh in 2011. For at least 10 years now it has been a minor player in the market.
In fiscal 2014-15, its total revenue stood at Tk 139.77 crore, while its investment was zero, according to BTRC's annual report. Singapore's SingTel owns 44.54 percent shares in Citycell, Pacific Motors 37.95 percent and Far East Telecom 17.51 percent.
Shareholders had been trying to sell the operator's licence for the last few years but could not find any interested party.