The government has earned a large amount of Tk 5,268.51 crore from a 4G spectrum auction and conversion fees for technology neutrality.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sold 15.6 megahertz of spectrum to Grameenphone Ltd and Banglalink Digital at a 4G auction on Tuesday.Market leader Grameenphone has bought 5 MHz of 1800 band at a price of Tk 1,284 crore.
Banglalink has bought a total of 10.6 MHz spectrum — 5MHz of 2100 band and 5.6 MHz of 1800 band — at a price of Tk 2,558 crore.
Besides, a sum of Tk 850 crore has come as spectrum conversion fees for technology neutrality while the remaining amount from VAT.
The BTRC held the much-awaited auction at Dhaka Club on Tuesday to sell 46.4 MHz of spectrum in 2100, 1800 and 900 bands to introduce the fastest 4G service in the country.
The first-ever 3G spectrum auction was held in the country in September 8, 2013.
Two other cell operators — Robi and Citycell — did not participate in the Tuesday’s auction although they applied for it.Robi, the second largest mobile operator, will be offering 4G services thought their existing spectrum (36.4 MHz).
Citycell, which is out of service since October 2016, missed another scope to return to operations, as the BTRC announced that Citycell was eligible for 4G licence and spectrum auction.
On the other hand, state-owned Teletalk didn’t apply for the spectrum auction.
Despite huge revenue earnings, posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar expressed his disappointment over the quality of services.
“I am really disappointed when I experienced an eight-time call drop in a day at my cell-phone,” he said, adding, “Our top priority is to ensure the best quality services.”
“You (operators) must ensure speed in data services as 95 percent subscribers are now using internet through mobile phones,” he said.
“I pay for speed of data services…but I didn’t get speed,” the minister added.
The government will make Digital Bangladesh before 2021 through 4G revolution, he mentioned.
“We will hand over the 4G license to Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk on February 20 so that they can introduce the service on February 21,” BTRC chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood said at a post-auction press briefing.
He said the leading mobile operator is receiving less spectrum in terms of subscribers compared to Malaysian and Germany cell-phone operators.
“I am really disappointed with the selling out of only one-third spectrum offered by us to ensure quality services,” he said.
The BTRC hopes the operators will get more spectrum for ensure the best quality services.
The acquisition fee of 4G license is Tk 10 crore. In case of the conversion in one go, the charge will be $4 million for each 900 MHz and 1,800 MHz, while it will be $ 7.5 million for converting partly.
Technology neutrality allows operators to offer either of 2G, 3G or 4G services from any band they see fit, a facility that helps in reducing the operational costs and improving the quality of service.
In the auction, the BTRC fixed $ 27 million as the floor price for per MHz of spectrum in 2100 band while $ 30 million for per MHz in 1800 and 900 bands.
But, auction for 900 band was not held for reluctance of mobile phone operators.
Lone operator Banglalink bided for 2100 band, but it didn’t make call in the first phase where bid price was $ 28 million with the inclusion of $ 1 million as bid increment.
Later, in the fourth phase Banglalink collected 5 MHz airwave with $ 27 million each MHz.
In the second phase, Grameenphone and Banglalink bided for 1800 MHz, and Banglalink became the bid winner and acquired 5.6 MHz of contagious spectrum with $ 31 million each MHz.
Later, Grameenphone also collected 5 MHz at same price.
In the fourth phase, the auctioneer made repeated calls for 2100 and 1800 bands, but Grameenphone and Banglalink did not respond, so the auction was declared end.
After the auction, now Grameenphone has totaled 37 MHz of which 7.4 MHz in 900 band, 15.6 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band to serve 65.327 million subscribers.
Banglalink has owned a total of 30.6 MHz –- 5 MHz in 900 band, 15.6 MHz in 1800 MHz and 10 MHz in 2100 band — to serve 32.384 million customers.
Besides, Teletalk has totaled 25.2 MHz of which 5.2 MHz in 900 band, 10 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band to serve 4.49 million subscribers.
Meanwhile, the top three operators have completed their preparations for 4G roll-out and have already launched campaigns to drum up excitement for the forthcoming technology.
At a post-auction press briefing, Grameenphone Chief Executive Officer Michael Foley said the GP will provide excellent services to its subscribers through utilising the spectrum neutrality and modernisation of network.
additional spectrum combined with our technology neutral spectrum has placed Grameenphone on a firm footing to provide the best 4G experience on the most modern network in the country,” he said.
Mr Michael hopes the quality of services will improve and the GP will provide the best data and internet services, utilising the ecosystem.
About the telecom minister’s experience in eight call drops by GP, he said the operator finds out the reason behind it.
“We will invest ten of millions dollar in introducing 4G services,” the CEO said without specifying about net investment in new services.
He, however, declined about the tariff of the 4G data and internet services. “We will take consent with the stakeholders then declared our new plan,” he said about the 4G tariff rate.
He also said the GP is ready to introduce 4G after obtaining license on February 19, 2018. A total of 100bts of GP is already ready for experiencing 4G services and rest of the BTS will be ready immediately out of around 1300 BTS.
Grameenphone has modernised its network, enabling future-forward technology that will allow its customers to experience buffer free HD video and live TV streaming, crystal-clear video calling, and super-fast downloads on its unbeatable network.
“By facilitating the auction, the government has taken a big step towards the implementation of Digital Bangladesh. We hope it will also pave the way for a successful 4G rollout and ensuring business viability by adopting rational policies.”
Reiterating that the GP has always been known for its superior network and quality of service, Michael Foley said, “We are not going to compromise on customer experience when we launch 4G.”
After a press conference, Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd chief executive officer Erik Aas said they have a plan to invest $1:0 billion in phases in improving the quality of services.
The operator is hopeful of providing the best services through acquiring 10.6 MHz spectrum from auction, he added.
“Banglalink won’t compromise on services after getting 4G licenses on February 20,” he said.