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Publication Date : 09-09-2013
Hasnain Salehin, a university student, bought a 3G-ready handset in 2011. His smartphone remained underutilised as he was longing for high-speed data connectivity and the ease of using apps and surfing the net without video buffering and playback problems. The days of such troubles are likely to be over soon for Salehin and millions of others like him.
After years of delay, Bangladesh is finally going to enter the era of third generation (3G) mobile technology as four operators won spectrum at an auction yesterday to launch the services.
Grameenphone, the largest operator with 44 million subscribers, purchased 10 megahertz spectrum, while the other three — Banglalink, Robi and Airtel — took 5 MHz each.
Grameenphone will launch the service by October or November, and the rest by the year end, officials said.
Vivek Sood, Grameenphone’s chief executive officer, said the firm will launch the 3G services “in the fastest possible time”, while Ziad Shatara, chief executive of the second largest operator — Banglalink, said: “With the 3G licence, we are now ready to move to the rollout phase.”
State-run Teletalk launched 3G last year on a test basis but failed to create enthusiasm among users due to inconsistent service. Citycell, the oldest operator, did not participate in the auction because of a fund dearth.
The auction started with a base price at US$20 million per MHz and the first call was at $21 million. However, prices did not go up further and were settled at the first call as the government offered four licences for four private operators.
The government raised $525 million from the auction, selling 25 MHz of the 40 MHz spectrum it had planned to offer.
Grameenphone will pay $210 million, with the other three operators paying $105 million each. Teletalk will shell out $210 million for the spectrum it is using currently.
“The price was very business friendly. It was not our objective to earn a huge amount from the auction,” Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, told reporters after the auction at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital.
“The 3G services will play a vital role in socio-economic development,” he said. With a population of more than 153 million, Bangladesh at present has only eight million internet users, and most of them use narrowband mobile internet.
The operators will also get the opportunity to roll out 4G or long-term evolution (LTE) services with the same band of spectrum without needing any permission, Bose said.
However, some of the operators, who purchased 5 MHz, may face spectrum constraints in the long run, he added.
In a statement, Robi said its bid was based on “an exhaustive process” that included a detailed study of the business case for the 5 MHz spectrum.
“It will be our endeavour to delight customers with best 3G services backed by rich content from our global portfolio,” Airtel said in a statement.
The operators will have to roll out the 3G services in the divisional cities by the next nine months, according to a condition of the licence.
The government approved the 3G licensing guideline early last year but the auction got delayed twice due to tax-related disputes between the government and the operators.