Users of two leading mobile phone operators –- Grameenphone and Robi -- are recently experiencing poor quality internet service across the country as the telecom regulator reduced their bandwidth to realise its claimed dues of Tk 13,446 crore that was found in audits, which are being contested.
After reducing the bandwidth of Grameenphone by 30 percent and Robi by 15 percent, more than two-third of carriers’ users have become affected by poor quality internet.
Overall bandwidth usage of the country dropped by 10 percent.
Grameenphone and Robi users are experiencing slow internet with worrisome buffering and in some cases, they cannot even get access.
People dependent on mobile internet for their livelihood, like riders of ride-hailing service providers in major cities, are failing to serve their customers properly. Students doing online courses, e-commerce and in some cases other digital service providers are also affected badly. People who use apps for voice calls, inside and outside the country, are also having issues.
Call drops and call generating time have increased.
Mobile operators may resort to rationing their current bandwidth and may even fully withdraw from some parts of the country where internet is used less.
A question may be asked as who won and who lost due to this this decision of the BTRC. Has anything been actually achieved? No. Everybody seems to be facing poor quality service. Even the decision-makers themselves are receiving disrupted service.
The BTRC has calculated through external auditors that Grameenphone owes Tk 12,579 crore to the government and Robi Tk 867 crore, which operators’ term “disputed” amount.
Operators have sought to run an arbitration process to fix the amount owed, but the telecom regulator refused saying there is no provision for arbitration under the telecom act.
The operators claim that when an audit is done, the practice is to sit with all parties and come to some agreed figure. In this case, no such effort has been made by the BTRC. Meanwhile, the subscribers are suffering.
The case of Teletalk can be cited as an example where the BTRC did not take any action though it owes the regulator Tk 2,000 crore.
In a latest move, the post and telecommunication division has directed the BTRC to go for arbitration to settle the issue of the BTRC’s claim against Grameenphone and Robi.
We congratulate the telecom division and consider it to be the proper way of resolving any dispute between any foreign investor and ourselves.
The BTRC’s move caused tremendous problems for the mobile phone and internet users. In its eagerness to make the service providers pay, the regulator forgot the 160 million subscribers whose rights and interest they have been entrusted to protect.