Cooler heads prevail in BTRC-Telco dispute
All parties concerned have decided to withdraw all lawsuits and notices against each other
After months of trading blows, the government finally decided to step in and resolve the long-standing dispute between two major telecom operators of the country and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
All parties concerned decided to withdraw all lawsuits and notices against each other on Wednesday, during a meeting open to the press.
Earlier in the day, it had been speculated that BTRC was aiming to take strict action against both telecom operators, as the commission had organized a press conference at its office.
However, cooler heads prevailed, and senior government ministers and officials defused the situation at a meeting organized at the finance ministry.
"We will resolve the dispute through discussion and there will be no further argument on this issue," Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal told reporters.
It will take two to three weeks to reach a decision, because Grameenphone – one of the telecom operators involved in the dispute – will discuss the issue with its parent company, Telenor, and then with BTRC, he explained.
The finance minister added: "If we had continued this dispute, it would have hampered both their business and restricted our revenue growth. This is a win-win solution."
Speaking at the conference, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar said: "We want to avoid any situation that hampers business environment. At the same time, national revenue and income is also important to us. I hope that the initiative taken by the finance minister will ensure an environment suitable to investors."
Grameenphone CEO Michael Patrick Foley said that he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting, where all parties agreed to find an amicable, transparent and fair solution to the problem.
Among others, National Board of Revenue Chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque, and Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, also attended the meeting.
In July last year, BTRC claimed in an audit report that Robi owed it Tk867.24 crore in unpaid dues. Later in April this year, an audit report on Grameenphone claimed that it owed Tk12,579 crore to the commission.
On July 4, BTRC directed all International Internet Gateway operators to slash 30 percent of Grameenphones total bandwidth usage, and 15 percent for Robi. Later, it backtracked on the decision considering customers' inconvenience.
The dispute with Grameenphone – the largest listed company in terms of market capitalisation – also caused the Dhaka Stock Exchange's prime index, DSEX, to lose 26.67 points during August.
The dispute reached a climax on September 5, when BTRC issued notices to the top two leading mobile operators of Bangladesh, asking them why their 2G and 3G licences should not be cancelled in the next 30 days for their failure in paying back taxes owed to the telecom regulator.