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Insufficient spectrum renders poor service

DHAKA, Feb 13, 2018 (BSS) - Amid the incessant question of quality of service (QoS), mobile network operators (MNOs) in Bangladesh have again shown their reluctance to buy spectrum in the latest bid.

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) had 46.4 Megahertz (MHz) of spectrum for sale in the auction, but two operators have collected 15.6 MHz only, while two kept themselves out of the bid.

Mentioning that market leader Grameenphone owns 45 percent of the total market share, BTRC Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood said the operator serve 20 lakh people using one MHz spectrum.

Besides, the second operator Robi, he said, provides service for 11 lakh customers with one MHz spectrum and 16 lakh customers of Banglalink is getting service per MHz of airwave.

Dr Mahmood questioned the MNOs if it was enough for QoS.

The regulatory body chief also cited the instances of different MNOs in developed and advanced countries. He said in Malaysia, Celcom serves 1.86 lakh customers with one MHz spectrum which is 15 to 10 times lower than Grameenphone, while Maxis offers service to 2 lakh people per MHz and U mobile does the same to 1.2 lakh customers.

In Germany, Vodafone using one MHz serves 2.2 lakh customers while Telefonica provides services for 3.45 customers per MHz, said the BTRC chairman.

In the auction, BTRC fixed $ 27 million as the floor price per MHz of spectrum in 2100 band while $ 30 million per MHz in 1800 and 900 bands. But, auction for 900 band was not held for reluctance of mobile phone operator.

"I believe the price is fair and justified for Bangladesh," added Dr Mahmood.

However, Secretary General of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) T I M Nurul Kabir opined the price of per MHz spectrum is very high for the MNOs to afford. "As the price is so high, the MNOs have no way to act as expected," he added.

On the other hand, Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar asked the MNOs to ensure QoS. "We've opened the door of spectrum and tech neutrality so you (MNOs) ensure QoS without showing any excuse."

Jabbar told the MNOs that it is not acceptable that "you offer service but don't buy spectrum. On the priority basis you (MNOs) have to ensure QoS".

Banglalink acquired a total of 10.6 MHz spectrum --5 MHz in 2100 band and 5.6 MHz in 1800 band while market leader Grameenphone took 5 MHz from only in 1800 band.

Grameenphone CEO Michael Foley said, "This additional spectrum combined with our technology neutral spectrum has placed Grameenphone on a firm footing to provide the best 4G experience on the most modern network in the country."

Reiterating that GP has always been known for its superior network and QoS, Michael Foley stressed, "We are not going to compromise on customer experience when we launch 4G."

After the auction, now the market leader Grameenphone has totaled 37 MHz of which 7.4 MHz in 900 band, 15.6 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band to serve 65.32 million subscribers while Banglalink owns a totaled 30.6 MHz -- 5 MHz in 900 band, 15.6 MHz in 1800 MHz and 10 MHz in 2100 band to serve 32.38 million customers.

Robi, merged with Airtel, has totaled 36.4 MHz spectrum in three different bands - 9 MHz in 900 band, 17.4 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band - to serve 42.90 million customers.

Teletalk has totaled 25.2 MHz of which 5.2 MHz in 900 band, 10 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band to serve 4.49 million subscribers.