BTRC to declare all operators eligible for 4G licences
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has decided to be liberal with the mobile phone operators and declare all of the five applicants eligible for the fourth generation licences.
A team of the commission has already evaluated the applications for the licence and spectrum auction, said Md Jahurul Haque, legal and licencing commissioner of the BTRC.
The panel took the decision in a meeting on Sunday and submitted the final report to the BTRC yesterday, said Haque, also the convener of the panel.
The regulator will make the report public tomorrow and then send the applications to the posts and telecommunications ministry for approval.
"In a country with only five mobile operators, we don't have too many options to choose from for 4G licence. That's why we have decided to go easy on the operators while evaluating the applications."
However, a senior member of the panel, requesting anonymity, said they found huge loopholes in the applications.
The applications lack a lot of information but the panel could not be tough, as the authorities asked it to be tolerant on it, said the official.
"Even after the beginning of the evaluation process, we asked for and collected some necessary documents from a couple of mobile operators, which were supposed to be submitted with the applications."
On January 14, the BTRC received five applications for 4G licence, including those from state-run Teletalk and now out-of-service Citycell. However, Teletalk will not buy any spectrum now.
Top three operators—Grameen-phone, Robi and Banglalink—are the main contenders for the launch of the fastest data service.
The regulator also made a provision for new entities to apply for the licence, but none showed interest.
None of the operators submitted documents to substantiate their claims on the total investment they have made so far in Bangladesh although the 4G guideline instructed the applicants to do so, the official said.
The operators also did not clearly share their 4G rollout plan with the regulator, he said. "The operators said they would take bank loans to finance their 4G plan."
Grameenphone said their funds would come from its own earnings and local banks, he said, adding that only one applicant complied with the preconditions submitting bank statements with the application.
However, none of them submitted their parent companies' acknowledgement letters to invest on 4G service, the official said. The operators also did not properly abide by the rule of submitting details of employees in the top two tiers, he said.
In the top two tiers, at least half of the employees of the operators should be local. Actually the operators are cashing in on the government's eagerness to launch the 4G service and making the regulator bound to bring changes to the guidelines at their will, the official said.
The BTRC is very hopeful that the super fast data service will be available at least in cities from March.
The telecom regulator will declare its spectrum auction procedure on January 29 and a mock auction will take place on February 12.
All operators but Teletalk will take part in the spectrum auction scheduled for February 13. The next day the regulator will declare the name of the bid winners.
Winning companies will have to clear the payments within the next 30 days. From this auction, the government can earn Tk 11,000 crore if the entire spectrum is sold out.