BTRC okays Robi spectrum renewal
The spectrum price will be fixed in accordance with the BTRC’s 2018 auction rate
Robi Axiata Limited, the country's second largest mobile operator, is going to receive the re-allotment of 11.6 megahertz (MHz) spectrum under two bands on an installment basis for a ten-year period.
The spectrum is set to expire on 19 December (today) after a 15-year period.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has agreed to allot the airwaves in five instalments.
The spectrum price will be fixed in accordance with the BTRC's 2018 auction rate, said a source at the BTRC.
Initially, Robi will deposit 25% of the spectrum fees, while the remaining 75% will be paid through five instalments.
When approached, Robi said: "We are pleased to have the regulatory approval for our spectrum renewal and we are really grateful to the regulator for that."
Robi was using 10 MHz spectrum from 1,800 MHz band and 1.6 from 900 under the Airtel Bangladesh Ltd, which merged with Robi in 2016.
Currently, Robi has more than 1,200 BTS towers under the spectrum that provides telecom services to more than 4.5 crore subscribers.
Sources at the industry said Robi has to spend around $359.9 million on the 11.6 MHz spectrum in its network system as per the BTRC's latest spectrum auction rate.
However, it could not be learnt how much money Robi is going to spend on retaining the airwaves.
In its previous auction for 4G technology in 2018, the BTRC fixed $27 million as the floor price per MHz spectrum in the 2,100 band, and $31 million per MHz spectrum in the 1,800 and 900 bands.
At that time, Banglalink acquired 10.6MHz spectrum – 5 MHz in the 2,100 band and 5.6 MHz in the 1,800 band – for $308.6 million while the market leader Grameenphone took 5 MHz only in the 1,800 bands for $155 million.
At that time, Robi did not participate in the bid.
Mobile operators that purchased frequencies in the last auction called upon the regulator not to allot spectrum at a price lower than what BTRC charged in 2018.
If Robi is given the spectrum at a lesser price, the other telecom operators will claim the money back from the BTRC that it took in the 2018 auction.
Posts and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the spectrum will be awarded as per the guidelines.
"BTRC has its own policy and guideline for spectrum allotment. The policy is equally applicable to any operator. No one will be favoured," he said.
At present, the market leader Grameenphone has 37 MHz spectrum, Robi 36.4 MHz, Banglalink 30.6 MHz, and Teletalk 25.2 MHz in three different bands.