September 6, 2009

BTRC Looks to 3G Bidders

The telecom watchdog is set to allow new investors for 3G licenses, aiming to ensure a competitive price through biding by the year-end. 3G or third generation technology for mobile is a technology which services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, video calls and wireless data--all in a mobile environment.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) earlier announced repeatedly that 3G licenses would be issued among the existing two or three mobile operators. The commission has already finalized draft guideline for 3G.

"New investors can participate in 3G bid," said BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed. "Our goal is to ensure a competitive bid. The commission will finalize the 3G guideline soon after consulting with the stakeholders," he added.

UK telecom Vodafone already
expressed its interest to take part in the 3G bid. The company will visit BTRC soon to present its company profile.

Industry insiders said stakeholders already met with BTRC and talked different options, including operation of 3G under a single license agreement. Later, the big operators backtracked on this option.

Bangladesh broadband internet market already started gaining momentum after the issuance of WiMAX license in September last year. Two companies--BanglaLion and Augere are now on their way to setting up networks for providing broadband services through WiMAX. The hefty bid of Tk215crore ($ 31 million) for each WiMAX license however has caused telecom investors' worries about the future of their business with the burden of license fee.

Such fear then naturally spread among the existing mobile phone operators, the 3G license seekers. Bangladesh internet penetration is only 4 percent. Only 45 lac people now enjoy internet services out of 150 million people.

Against this backdrop, BTRC officials felt the urgency of immediate resolution of the mobile phone operators' license renewal issue. They said 3G spectrum will also be distributed as early as possible.

Affordability of internet to all will ensure the achievement of the government's vision of Digital Bangladesh, said Oddvar Hesjedal, chief executive officer of GrameenPhone, the top player in the mobile market.

"In my opinion the 3G spectrum or license should be priced at such a level that it makes a good business case besides helping licensees in materializing the vision of government, regardless of whether it is a new operator or any of the existing operators," added Hesjedal.

In case of a new operator, however, it would mean extra investment in new infrastructure and thus an increase in costs, which will again impact the business case; in that light the 3G license fee should be even lower, he said.

The BTRC however wants that new operators crowd the broadband market so that one operator cannot monopolize in providing all services.

Among the six mobile operators, except Warid and state run TeleTalk, four were fined by BTRC for their involvement in illegal international call termination through VoIP (voice over internet protocol).

This scandal also prompted the BTRC to welcome new operators in broadband market, said officials in the regulatory body.

Source: The Daily Star


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