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Telcos term draft 4G guideline unrealistic [ Business ] 13/07/2017
Telcos term draft 4G guideline unrealistic
Tareque Mortaza

Terming the draft 4G guideline ‘unrealistic’, the mobile operators of the country have decided to convey their discontent about the guideline to the Post and Telecommunication Division on July 18.

The top three mobile operators-Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi have expressed their dissatisfaction over the draft 4G guideline and they said the government should make the guideline realistic’.

The deadline for putting comments and observation on the draft guideline posted at the website of Post and Telecommunication Division was July 12. The government will finalise the guideline after getting all the comments and observation from common people as well as from the operators and experts concerned.

Talking with The Independent, TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of Association of Mobile Telephone Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) said that the base price fixed for the spectrum is unrealistic. The conversion fee for tech neutrality proposed by the BTRC is also very high.

“The government should fix a rational price for the spectrum. The operators will not just buy spectrum, they will also need to invest a significant amount to take the 4G services to people’s doorstep,” he added.

Meanwhile, the officials with the mobile operators said that the price of per Mhz spectrum shouldn’t be more than $15 million.

In July 4, the Post and Telecommunication division published the 4G draft guideline in its website. In July 10, the Post and Telecommunication Division also published the draft guideline for the spectrum auction. The mobile operators have completed all the processes of expressing their opinions by coordinating the provisions mentioned in the draft guideline. In the draft guideline of 4G, it is mentioned that the operators should bring foreign investment. They will not be able to bring any investment from the local bank. The speed of 4G is fixed at 100 MPS. The operators have to bear the expense of keeping all data until BTRC permission to delete. They will also have to ensure quality of service.

The draft guideline published in the website of Post and Telecommunication Division asked the operators to float initial public offering (IPO) in the share market. But the draft guideline doesn’t make that provision mandatory.

The industry insiders meanwhile told The Independent that the government has asked to provide 100 MBPS speed in 4G which is not possible. Explaining the reason, senior officials from two mobile operators told The Independent that to do so; a huge amount of optical fiber will be needed.  The Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) is not being able to provide that.  Talking with The Independent, Abbas Faruq, Head of government affairs of Fiber@home said, the country has a total of five NTTN operators. Out of these, three are government owned, two are private owned-fiber@homes and Summit Communication.

The two private NTTN operators have laid a total of 65,000 kilometers of optical fiber across the country. Fiber@homes has fiber length of 32,598 km in 2563 unions in 404 upazilas in 64 districts.

“The claim that the mobile phone operators are making that the NTTN operators haven’t laid enough optical fiber is not right. The NTTN operators have the capacity to support the 4G services all across the country,”  he added.

Meanwhile, about the provision of bringing foreign money, the three largest operators said that the banks in Bangladesh now have enough money to lend in lower interest, why they need to bring foreign investment at higher cost.

In their logic, they said that if they take money from the local bank, then the money will remain inside Bangladesh, but if they take loan from foreign entity, then the money will be out of the country.

The operators are also saying that if they take the 4G license abiding the draft guideline, then they will never be able to ensure quality of service. They will have to invest a total of Tk 22,600 crore in the next three years if they abide by the draft.

Such investment would rather create a crisis than create economic opportunity, said the operators.

As per the data of AMTOB, the three operators Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink have spent a total of Tk 32,000 crore for 3G roll out. They have earned a total of Tk 6,000 crore in the last three years from 3G services.

Talking with The Independent, Tarana Halim, State Minister of Post and Telecommunication Division said: “We will listen to everyone. Then we will finalise the guideline.”

“We will not compromise with quality of service,” she added.
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