The telecom regulator received eight applications for tower company licences, including one from state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Ltd, as the deadline to apply ended yesterday.
A total of 19 applications were sold but AB High Tech Consortium, BTCL, BD Tower Business Company Consortium, edotco, FTA Bangladesh Ltd, iSON ECT Tower, Jamuna Tower, and TASC Summit Towers Ltd finally applied.
Among the applicants, some are joint ventures set up by local and foreign firms. Some local companies have also applied individually, said an official who is dealing with the issue.
“We have received a good number of applications and we will begin the evaluation process tomorrow (Tuesday),” said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
The commission will soon send its recommendation to the government seeking approval, Haque said. He, however, declined to say when the licences will be awarded.
The BTRC will award four licences to run the tower business with a view to separating the network business from telecom services -- a move that is expected to rationalise the number of towers in the country and reduce the use of land needed to set up towers. No auction will take place to choose the licensees, said an official of the BTRC.
Instead, the BTRC will use its criteria to evaluate the applications before recommending names to the government, said the official.
According to the Tower Sharing Guideline, foreign companies can receive the licence if they form a joint venture with a local company and can own a maximum 70 percent stake in the joint entity.
Under this category, edotco, a sister concern of edotco Group which is a partner of Robi's parent company Axiata, has applied.
Edotco is running its tower-sharing business after getting a no-objection certificate from the regulator. Recently, it has formed a partnership with local company Getco Group to run the business.
Licence acquisition fee and annual fee have been set at Tk 25 crore and Tk 5 crore respectively.
Besides, licensees will have to share 5.5 percent of their revenue with the government and contribute another 1 percent to the social obligation fund from the second year after getting licences.
Licensees will also have to give a performance bank guarantee worth Tk 20 crore to the BTRC and the telecom regulator would encash up to 50 percent of the amount in phases if the licensees fail to fulfill the rollout obligations.
The tenure of the licence would be 15 years initially and would be extended gradually by five years.
Mobile phone operators have more than 30,000 towers in Bangladesh, according to BTRC data.
But the number may decline in future, but they will still be able to cover the targeted areas riding on increased efficiency, officials said.