Bangladesh’s top two cell phone companies bid nearly 500 million U.S. dollars on Tuesday to obtain spectrum for fourth-generation (4G) services as part of government’s plans to expedite the launch of 4G mobile services.
The country’s largest cell phone operator Grameenphone, 55.8 percent owned by Norwegian telecom company Telenor and 34.2 percent owned by local Grameen Telecom, bagged 5 Megahertz (MHz) spectrum from 1800 band at the price of 155 million U.S. dollars.
The third largest telecom operator Banglalink, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based company VEON Ltd, acquired 10.6 MHz spectrum from two different bands – 2100 and 1800, at a price of 308.6 million U.S. dollars.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) arranged the auction in the capital of Dhaka, which was attended, among others, by Telecommunication and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar.
The auction guidelines set a floor bid price of 30 million U.S. dollars per MHz of spectrum in the 1800MHz bands, and 27 million U.S. dollars in the 2100MHz band.
According to the guidelines, no auction for licence will be held. All the four operators can take the licence by paying fees.
The licence fee for the 4G network technology is 100 million taka (1.2 million U.S. dollars).
Robi, the country’s second largest operator and state-owned Teletalk did not participate in the auction as they thought their existing spectrum will be enough for offering 4G services.
BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood told reporters after the auction that the government has earned 52.89 billion taka (about 637 million U.S. dollars) as revenue from new 4G spectrum allocation and tech neutrality fees from Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi, a joint venture of Axiata Group Berhad (Malaysia), Bharti Airtel Limited (India) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (Japan).
He said the commission will handover 4G licence to Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk on Feb. 20.
He expressed the hope that 4G services will be launched formally on Feb. 21.
Experts said the launch of 4G services could further assist in minimizing the “digital divide” in Bangladesh, a country being poorly served by broadband internet services.
The 4G spectrum will enable companies to tap more revenue from fast-growing data services and reduce regulatory costs under a new licensing regime, they said, adding that 4G promises the fastest data speed from mobile devices.
Grameenphone, with the help of leading Chinese global telecom vendor Huawei, has already given its network a test run for 4G services.
Officials of other operators said they are also almost prepared to launch 4G services at their earliest in Bangladesh where the total number of mobile phone subscribers reached 145.114 million at the end of December 2017 with 18.72 million new users last year.
The latest BTRC data showed the number of subscribers of cellphone operators – Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk – at the end of December last year stood at 65.327 million, 42.908 million, 32.384 million and 4.494 million respectively.
Bangladesh in October 2012 officially entered the next generation of wireless communications when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the long-awaited 3G or third generation mobile services via state-run cellphone operator Teletalk.