Grameenphone yesterday deposited Tk 7.33 crore with the telecom regulator against the unused balance of connections that were blocked in between 2008 and 2014.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission had blocked 2,540,666 SIMs of the market leader in the six years to December 31, 2014. Those SIMs were barred for allegations of use in illegal call termination and most had unused credit balance stored in them.
The operator will now be eligible to resell these blocked numbers, said Md Sarwar Alam, secretary and spokesperson of BTRC. Last month, the regulator decided to allow mobile operators to resell their previously blocked connections.
Until now, Grameenphone has blocked around one crore SIMs, said an official of BTRC.
In a letter to BTRC, Grameenphone said the total unused balance of the SIMs blocked in the six years was Tk 9.37 crore, of which, it has already deposited Tk 1.22 crore to the government exchequer as 15 percent VAT.
The operator also deducted Tk 81.44 lakh -- 10 percent of the amount -- as different taxes that they have already paid to different government authorities, reads the letter signed by Hossain Sadat, a director of the company. A top official of the regulator said all the operators have around two crore blocked connections and most of the accounts have unused balance, which will be worth a few hundred crores of taka. “We will try to realise the entire amount and it will be deposited with the state coffer,” said the BTRC official.
While depositing the money, Grameenphone requested the regulator to allow it another number series; BTRC earlier decided to allocate '013' to add to its existing '017' number series. In August last year, BTRC had decided to allocate a new number series to Grameenphone with some conditions, as its existing '017' prefix is almost full.
But it changed the decision last month and formed a committee to explore the option of reselling blocked SIMs. As of October last year, Grameenphone has 5.57 crore active subscribers out of the country's total of 12.74 crore.
Grameenphone, which was founded in 1997, needed to expand its number series twice -- first after hitting the 10-lakh landmark and later after reaching one crore subscribers. Among the current operators, Citycell is using the 011 series, Teletalk 015, Robi using 016 and 018 and Banglalink 019.
Meanwhile, BTRC also directed five other mobile phone operators -- Banglalink, Robi, Airtel, Citycell and Teletalk -- to deposit the unused balance of their deactivated SIMs before resale. The regulator also set seven days for it, otherwise punitive measures would be taken against the defaulter operators, said Alam.