The government is likely to allocate additional spectrum at a reduced price to three mobile phone service providers to cater to the extra demand of data during the Covid-19 shutdown.
Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), told The Business Standard on Wednesday that the commission received applications from Robi, Banglalink and state-run Teletalk in this regard.
"The service providers asked for additional spectrum for three months to ensure uninterrupted service during the Covid-19 lockdown. Though it is an emergency, but as per law we cannot allocate them free spectrum," he said.
Jahurul said the commission can allow operators to pay the spectrum charges in installments.
"The matter is under consideration, and if the government wants, we can provide them additional spectrum at a reduced price also," he added.
"Although the rule is to hold an auction for allocating new spectrum to the service providers, the government can consider the last sold spectrum price as the benchmark," he said.
The three private mobile phone service providers invested Tk5,268.51 crore for 4G spectrum and Tk4,450.83 crore for 3G spectrum when the prices were determined by open auction.
According to BTRC data, the total internet use in the country was 922 GBps last year and 894 GBps in 2018.
The BTRC data showed that until December last year, the total number of internet users in the country was 9.99 crore of which 9.42 crore were mobile internet users.
A senior official of a mobile phone company seeking anonymity told The Business Standard that data consumption has increased manifold during the Covid-19 shutdown that started from March 26.
"Now people are staying home and have become depended on the internet for their work, availing emergency services and entertainment. So the use of data has shot up. In such a situation, we need more spectrum to cater to the additional demand," he said.
Asked about the matter, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Business Standard that the ministry will wait for the BTRC recommendation about allocating additional spectrum.
"The BTRC is analysing the matter. After getting the commission's view on the matter we will decide our next course of action," he said.
At present, market leader GP has 37 MHz spectrum, Robi 36.4 MHz, Banglalink 30.6 MHz and Teletalk has 25.2 MHz spectrum in three different bands.