Bangladesh spectrum auction attracts nearly 1 bln USD in bids

2021-03-09 07:05:54 GMT2021-03-09 15:05:54(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Naim-Ul-Karim

DHAKA, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Bangladesh cell phone companies bid nearly 1 billion U.S. dollars on Monday night to obtain additional spectrum to improve services and stay competitive in the race for networks for over 170 million customers.

Three of the country's four top operators -- Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink -- acquired 27.4 megahertz of spectrum for 885.35 million U.S. dollars.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) arranged the auction in capital Dhaka, which was attended, among others, by the country's Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar.

The 12-hour auction concluded on Monday night. It staged 7.4 megahertz of spectrum in 1800 band and 20 MHz in 2100 band and the base price for 1800 band was 31 million U.S. dollars per megahertz. For 2100 band, it was 27 million U.S. dollars for 15 years.

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 0.4 Megahertz (MHz) spectrum from 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band at the price of 378.75 million U.S. dollars.

Robi, the second-largest operator and a joint venture of Axiata Group Berhad (Malaysia), Bharti Airtel Limited (India) and NTT DoCoMo Inc. (Japan), acquired 2.6 MHz in 1800 band and 5 MHz in 2100 band. The operator will pay 225.6 million U.S. dollars.

The third-largest telecom operator Banglalink, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based company VEON Ltd, acquired 4.4 MHz in 1800 band and 5 MHZ in 2100 band for 281 million U.S. dollars.

Apart from spectrum fees, the operators will have to pay 15 percent VAT as well.

State-owned Teletalk took part in the auction initially but withdrew its bid later.

Jens Becker, acting chief executive officer and chief financial officer of Grameenphone, said, "This spectrum award is important for Grameenphone to further support the national digitalization agenda of Bangladesh and empower more people all across Bangladesh with access to 4G."

"With this additional capacity we will be able to meet people's growing need for high-speed internet and support the uptake of digital services in urban as well as rural areas."

Bangladeshi cell phone companies had earlier bid nearly 500 million U.S. dollars in an auction in February 2018 to obtain spectrum for fourth-generation (4G) services as part of the government's plans to expedite the launch of 4G mobile services.

The country in 2012 officially entered the third generation of wireless communications. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the long-awaited 3G services via a state-run cellphone operator Teletalk.

Bangladesh formally entered 4G era in 2018 as the country's telecom regulator issued licenses to four operators, paving the way for launching the fourth generation of mobile telecommunications services.

The number of subscribers of mobile operators, Grameen Phone Ltd., Robi Axiata Limited, Banglalink Digital Communications Limited and Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd. stood at 79.037 million, 50.901 million, 35.272 million and 4.927 million respectively at the end of last year, the BTRC data showed. Enditem