Robi wants to pay merger fees in four instalments

Mobile phone operator Robi has applied to the telecom regulator seeking permission to pay its merger fee and merged spectrum price in four instalments over the next three years.

In a separate letter, Robi also informed Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission that they will not acquire the entire 2G spectrum that Airtel is currently using in two different bands.

The government has fixed Tk 100 crore as merger fee and Tk 33.8 crore as fee for each megahertz of Airtel's 2G spectrum that the merged entity will use over the next four years.

Currently, Airtel is using 15 MHz spectrum for 2G services. Of the spectrum, 10 MHz is on the 1,800 MHz band and 5MHz on the 900 MHz band.

According to the government decision, if the merged entity decides to leave behind any spectrum it has to be from the 900 MHz band.

In that case, Robi will have to pay a total of Tk 338 crore as spectrum fee along with the merger fee of Tk 100 crore.

“Now Robi wants to pay the amount in four equal instalments,” said a senior official related to the issue.

The matter will be decided in a meeting of the BTRC scheduled to be held on Monday.

In the meeting, the regulator will also fix the voluntary retirement scheme for Airtel employees who will opt not to work for the merged entity.

The high court on August 21 approved the much discussed merger proposal of Robi and Airtel.

Certified copy of the court order came out on September 21; all the process must be completed within the next one month, according to rules.

Since October 21 is a Friday, Robi will get additional two days.

Robi officials said the integration process has started from the first week of October. Besides, the operators will also need to amalgamate their spectrums, which is a complicated process in itself.

The merged entity will also have to migrate Airtel's subscriber number prefix of '016' to Robi's '018' and for that they will get two more years. Following the merger, Robi will be the second largest mobile phone operator in Bangladesh after Grameenphone.

As of July, Grameenphone's total active SIMs stood at 5.63 crore. Robi and Airtel together had 3.62 crore active connections and Banglalink 3.14 crore, according to BTRC. The country's total active connections stood at 12.89 crore.

Robi and Airtel opened talks on a possible merger in August last year and both their parent companies signed a deal in January this year.

Airtel entered Bangladesh in 2010 by acquiring a 70 percent stake in Warid Telecom. Later in 2013, it picked up the remaining 30 percent.

Robi started operations in 1997 under the brand name of Aktel; in 2008 it was rebranded as Robi. The operator renewed its licence in 2011 after completing its first 15-year tenure.

In the merged entity, Axiata, the parent company of Robi, will hold a 68.7 percent controlling stake. Bharti Airtel will hold a 25 percent share and Axiata's old partner NTT Docomo of Japan 6.3 percent. Currently, Malaysia-based Axiata has a 91.59 percent stake in Robi and NTT Docomo 8.41 percent.


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