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Govt unveils draft Spectrum Guidelines for auction [ TRADE & MARKET ] 12/07/2017
Govt unveils draft Spectrum Guidelines for auction
'High price to make network rollout unviable'
Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan

The government has unveiled the much-awaited draft Spectrum Guidelines for auctioning of additional spectrum to the mobile operators, setting a base price ranging from US$ 27 million to $ 35 million per megahertz (MHz).

As per the draft guideline, the base price for additional spectrum in 2100 Mhz bandwidth will be $ 27 million per MHz, whereas it will be $ 35 million per MHz for 1800 MHz bandwidth.

Meanwhile, the base price for additional spectrum in 900 MHz bandwidth will be $ 30 million per MHz, the draft guideline says.

The spectrum guideline has also set a $ 10 million per MHz technology neutrality fee for conversion of existing spectrum to tech-neutral spectrum.

The draft guideline, posted on the website of Post and Telecommunication Division on Monday, is now up for further reviews and comments from different stakeholders.

However, according to some sector insiders, the guideline would come as a shock for the country\'s mobile operators. These companies have long been asking for a far lower spectrum price while also calling for not imposing any additional fee for tech neutrality.

"Such a high spectrum price along with the additional tech neutrality fee would make further rollout of 3G and 4G network far less commercially viable for us given the low average revenue per user (ARPU) as well as high taxation and capital expenditure prevailing in Bangladesh," said a high official of a top telecom operator.

"The price of the spectrum ideally should not be more than $ 15 million per MHz, and there should not be any technology neutrality fee," he added.

Cell-phone operators also observed that such a \'hefty\' floor price of spectrum along with the tech neutrality fee would not help the government\'s intention of increasing mobile affordability and ensuring better service quality.

According to industry data, 4G has so far been introduced in 112 countries around the world, out of which only seven or eight countries have imposed such technology neutrality fee.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) currently has 15 MHz of unsold spectrum in 2100 band, 10.6 MHz in 1800 band and some spectrum in 900 band that was released from Airtel after its merger with Robi.

Mobile operators use 2100 band for 3G services, and 900 and 1800 bands for 2G services. But after getting technology neutrality, they can use the latter two bands for 4G services, which will be cost effective for them.      

The draft spectrum guideline comes at a time when the country\'s telecom operators are preparing for introduction of 4G mobile technology in the country. Just a week back, the government also unveiled the draft guideline for the introduction of 4G technology.

In 2013, the telecom regulator held a 3G auction, where each MHz of paired spectrum in 2100 band was sold at $ 21 million against the base price of $ 20 million.

As per the industry figures, the mobile operators have so far invested a total of Tk 320 billion in 3G while earning Tk 60 billion as revenue. Besides, the operators are planning to invest around Tk 226 billion for introducing 4G in the country.
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