No approval for GP, Robi to roll out packages

BTRC piles pressure on the operators to realise dues

The telecom regulator will not give any kind of approval to Grameenphone and Robi to roll out new package or service or import network equipment as it looks to pile pressure on the operators to clear their dues, according to a letter issued yesterday. 

Grameenphone has Tk 12,579.95 crore pending and Robi Tk 867.24 crore as per an audit of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

But the two operators, which are coincidentally the top two players in the market, have turned a deaf ear to the commission's repeated claims.

So to crank up the pressure, the BTRC on July 4 slashed Grameenphone's bandwidth by 30 percent and Robi's by 15 percent for non-payment of the dues -- enough to slow down their internet speed and raise the call drop frequency.

But the block on bandwidth was lifted on July 17 considering the inconvenience it was causing to subscribers.

So now the commission has come up with a new manner to penalise the two operators.

As per yesterday's letter to the two operators, all the no-objection certificates (NOC) taken from the regulator thus far have become invalid. They cannot open any letters of credit or import any equipment and software against the documents.

And if the operators have already imported any equipment the customs authority will have to take permission from the telecom regulator before releasing them.

Grameenphone in a statement yesterday said they have received the letter and is it is now under their assessment.

"However, we are concerned over the BTRC decision to withhold NOCs. We still believe that the best way to resolve our differences is through dialogue and arbitration," it added.

Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer at Robi, said stopping the issuance of NOC as a replacement for the reduction of bandwidth will only increase the sufferings for the customers.

Stopping NOC will lead to seizure on ongoing investment. As a result, network expansion, and all other planned activities to improve the quality of service will also come to a halt.

"Not just that, companies who are integral to the telecom sector, such as network partners, NTTN operators and ICT companies will be adversely impacted by this decision."

Businesses of the three new tower company licensees will also be severely hampered.

"On the whole, this unfortunate decision will have a multifarious negative impact on the industry," he added.

Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the telecom watchdog, said the commission will deploy all the tough measures provided in the law to realise the dues.

If suspending the issuance of NOC fails to get the two operators to pay up, the BTRC will consider appointing an administrator to run the two mobile operators.  "This is allowed by the telecom act," he added.


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