Grameenphone's indomitable crusade for more market share is likely to be ground to a halt as the government is set to activate a regulation that will clip monopolistic tendencies.
Called the Significant Market Power (SMP), the regulation imposes restrictions on an operator once it corners 40 percent of the subscribers, revenues and spectrum.
As of September, Grameenphone has 45.83 percent market share, while its revenue share in fiscal 2017-18 was 51.77 percent, according to the telecom regulator.
The operator has been maintaining the same market share for the last few years now.
The regulation, which has been in the works since 2011, has already been approved by the government and will be issued by this week, said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.
“We want to ensure a healthy competition in the market and for that the SMP regulation will be one of our enablers.”
The new regulation, which will be the first of its kind in South Asia, states if an operator is found to wage anti-market activities the BTRC can step in to break the monopoly or oligopoly through it.
Any competitor can also lodge complaint against the SMP and the regulator will have to look into it.
“As the SMP regulation will have repercussions for the entire digital ecosystem in Bangladesh, we assume that BTRC will not deviate from the standard practice to consult with wide set of industry stakeholders prior to implementing such a comprehensive regulation,” said Hossain Sadat, acting chief corporate affairs officer and head of regulatory affairs of Grameenphone. Taking a systematic and transparent approach will lead to better regulation, which in the end will benefit customers, he added.
Officials of the telecom regulator said if Grameenphone is declared a SMP operator its tariff and package approval process might be different.
The service quality parameters will also be different for non-SMP and SMP operators, said a BTRC official.
However, all the restrictions will be implicated after getting the government's nod.
Robi, the country's second largest operator, might get a leg-up if Grameenphone is declared a SMP.
The operator welcomes the move, calling it a demand of the market.
“We hope this move will help the telecom industry to reach the next level,” said Shahed Alam, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Robi, which has 30 percent share of subscribers and 28 percent share of revenue.
In its regulation formulation process, the BTRC contacted the Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC) for its opinion.
“The BTRC can formulate any regulation to enhance the service quality but they have to keep in mind that it does not get in the way of competition,” said Md Iqbal Khan Chowdhury, chairman of BCC.
BTRC officials said they will gradually impose the same regulation on the other telecom service operators.