Bandwidth of Grameenphone and Robi have been blocked partially over the outstanding dues detected by the audit.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) directed all the International Internet Gateway operators to cut down 30 percent bandwidth of the total usage of Grameenphone while it was 15 percent for Robi, said officials.
The regulator on Thursday evening took such punitive measures for the first time against the mobile network operators (MNOs), terming it as for bringing discipline in telecom sector.
Industry people, however, opined the move against two leading MNOs would ultimately affect the customers for getting the quality of services, especially for call and internet.
Talking to BSS, BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque said "We have been compelled to block the capacity of Grameenphone and Robi partially to realize the public money."
He said customers may face little challenges but it would not be unbearable. "We will immediately withdraw the restriction when operators pay the dues."
Grameenphone has an outstanding of Taka 12,579 crore while it was Taka 867.24 crore for Robi, according to the BTRC's audit claim.
The telecom regulator issued demand notes to the respective operators several times. BTRC had run technical and financial audits on their network from its inception to since 2015.
Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory affairs at Robi, in a statement told BSS that it's regrettable to limit bandwidth which will hurt interest of the consumer.
"We are disappointed by this draconian step from a regulator. We had already raised our concerns regarding the fundamentally flawed audit claims through official correspondence with BTRC," he added.
Shahed, however, said they are confident that Robi can ensure satisfactory level of quality of service even with the limited bandwidth.
Besides, Grameenphone termed the decision to forcefully reduce bandwidth runs counter to supporting customer interests.
Md. Hasan, Deputy General Manager of Public Relations at Grameenphone, said: "This instruction disregards our invitation to BTRC for a constructive arbitration process on the audit and it seems to be designed to penalize our gateway partners".
He said "It could have a negative impact on millions of Bangladeshi data users and we are surprised by the instruction and question the legality of this action."
Before this decision, market leader Grameenphone consumed 209.93 Gbps bandwidth and after the decision it brought down to 146.95 Gbps.
Besides, Robi consumed about 150.67 gigabits per second bandwidth which brought down to 128 Gbps.
Earlier the regulator has suspended to issuing no objection certificate (NOC) for importing equipment to run the network.
According to BTRC, as of May, Grameenphone has 7.48 crore active connections while Robi owns 4.77 crore connections and about half of them are using internet.