The telecom regulator has sent a warning letter to the newly merged mobile operator Robi as it has already started bypassing interconnection exchanges to make calls between Robi and Airtel.
Without fulfilling all conditions and paying all fees and charges, the merged entity cannot be treated as a single operator, said senior officials of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
About 1.5 crore minute calls are generated a day between the two operators, yielding about Tk 6 lakh to ICX operators. The government gets 65.67 percent of the sum.
On November 16, Robi received the green light from the Office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms for the merger and right away started bypassing ICX exchanges to send calls from 018 to 016 or vice versa, according to a top ICX exchange company. Mobile operators are legally bound to route calls through interconnection exchanges or ICXs to connect with each other.
“From 3am on November 17 we are not getting any calls from Robi and Airtel,” said Aminur Rahman, general secretary of the ICX Association, a grouping of 23 members.
The association informed the regulator about the matter the following morning, Rahman added.
“We have sent Robi a warning letter and if they do not comply with it they will get a show-cause letter and ultimately will be punished,” said a senior official of BTRC.
The merged entity is claiming that all formalities have been completed, he said. “But both Robi and Airtel are yet to get the no-objection certificate from all the departments of the BTRC -- there are different issues pending,” said the official.
Robi has to pay a total of Tk 407 crore in spectrum and merger fees, according to the BTRC's calculations. But it has so far paid Tk 318.32 crore and is claiming that it has no other outstanding amount.
Robi refused to comment on the allegation of bypassing the ICXs.
Robi and Airtel started its merger process in September last year and have subsequently gotten the government's consent, court's order and finally the BTRC's approval to become the second largest operator in Bangladesh in terms of customers. In the merged entity, Axiata, the parent company of Robi, will hold a 68.7 percent stake, while Bharti Airtel will hold a 25 percent share; Axiata's old partner NTT DOCOMO will have a 6.3 percent stake.