DHAKA: The development of their network for voice and data services Bangladesh four private mobile companies invested around Tk 9,800 crore in fiscal 2013-14, the telecom regulator told the Customs Today here the other day.
Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Airtel made the investments mainly for 3G spectrum and equipment purchases, according to the annual report of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission for 2013-14.
The BTRC said private operator Citycell and state-owned company Teletalk did not invest during the year.
However, Giasuddin Ahmed, managing director of Teletalk, said they made investment during the period. “The BTRC did not seek any information from us on our investment,” he said, but could not tell The Daily Star how much they had invested in the year.
In September last year, the four operators purchased 25 megahertz of bandwidth in the 2,100 MHz band for 3G rollout. The total price of the bandwidth was around Tk 4,000 crore, which was paid in instalments.
Teletalk also bought 10 MHz spectrum but it is yet to clear the payment — around Tk 1,600 crore. The state-run operator has been using the spectrum since 2012.
However, the oldest but the smallest operator in terms of subscriber base, Citycell, did not purchase 3G spectrum. The operator is yet to pay around Tk 250 crore that comprises 2G spectrum renewal fee and a portion of its revenue to be shared with the government.
The BTRC in the report said the six operators earned a total of Tk 20,765 crore as gross revenue through voice, data and other value-added services.
From 1997 to 2013, the operators invested more than Tk 71,870 crore, according to a newsletter of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.
TIM Nurul Kabir, secretary general of the association, said the operators mainly invested in voice services before 2013, but after the 3G auction, they are investing in data business as well. Mobile operators provide more than 95 percent of the internet services in the country, being the main driving force behind the government’s vision for a “digital Bangladesh”, he said. Kabir called upon the government to end all disputes with the sector, especially the one related to outstanding SIM tax that was sought by the tax administrator.
He termed the tax regime for the telecom sector “unpredictable and often discriminatory”.
He suggested the government should amend some clauses of the telecom law, saying those often create risks for investors. The current telecom policy that was formulated in 1998 should also be updated, Kabir said, adding that the operators want to know about the government’s long-term plans for the sector.
BTRC officials said the government will sell spectrum in the 1,800 MHz and 2,100 MHz bands next year for mobile operators.