HC okays BTRC move to restrict GP
The High Court yesterday cleared the way for the telecom regulator to declare Grameenphone as a significant market power (SMP) and the restrictions it imposed on the country’s leading mobile phone operator.
However, the court also decided to amend the wording of the conditions and asked the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to issue a notice to the carrier within next 30 days.
After the notice is issued, Grameenphone will get 15 days to clarify its position and the regulator will take its final decision based on the reply of the operator, said Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the BTRC.
“Soon after receiving the written order from the court, we will take the action,” he said.
On February 11 this year, the BTRC declared Grameenphone as the country’s first SMP operator, seeing that its revenue share is more than 50 percent and customer share about 47 percent. In May, four restrictions were imposed on the operator.
The operator yesterday said the HC ordered the BTRC to re-issue the directive.
But Khondker Reza E Rakib, a lawyer of the BTRC, told The Daily Star that the directive would remain in place and the commission would only start the process to issue the notice.
Following the amendment of the directive, the telecom regulator will face no bar to implement the restrictions and there is no need to start the process from the beginning, he said.
“The regulator can now move in line with the directive and impose the restrictions within 30 days of the order issuance,” Rakib added.
Once the restrictions become effective, the floor price of Grameenphone’s call rate will go up by 5 paisa to Tk 0.50 a minute.
Currently, the minimum call rate is Tk 0.45 for all mobile operators, and after adding the value-added tax and other tariffs, the minimum rate goes up to Tk 0.54 to any operator. But for Grameenphone, it will be Tk 0.61 a minute.
Grameenphone’s average call rate is Tk 0.72 a minute, according to its financial statement.
As per the second restriction, the market leader will have to pay 5 paisa more to other operators for the calls its subscribers make to another networks.
At present, the interconnection cost is 10 paisa a minute. For Grameenphone it will be 15 paisa, according to the BTRC letter. And this extra charge can’t be passed on to the customers. Haque said the restrictions would help keep GP’s aggressive marketing in check and would also be helpful for other players.
Grameenphone channels about seven crore minutes of calls to other operators every day and receives about 10 crore minutes of calls from other operators, earning Tk 700 crore from the segment.
The third restriction has made it easier for a user to leave Grameenphone under the mobile number portability facility. Currently, if a subscriber wants to switch to another network, he/she will have to stay with the new carrier for at least 90 days. But such subscribers can abandon Grameenphone after 30 days.
The final restriction stipulates prior approval from the telecom regulator before Grameenphone rolls out any package. The operator also needs to take approval for its existing packages and offers from the regulator.
Currently, operators can roll out packages just by informing the telecom regulator.
“With these regulations, the gap between the operators will reduce and this will create a balance between the operators,” Haque said. When the BTRC issued the directive, the operator went to the higher court challenging the move.
In a statement yesterday, Grameenphone said: “Grameenphone continues to maintain its support for a competition framework, which is consistent with all applicable laws of the land, and does not restrict an entity’s ability to grow, innovate, or invest.”