The government will impose significant market power (SMP) regulations on leading mobile phone operator Grameenphone soon to limit its market presence, the telecom regulator has said.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Chairman Md Jahirul Haque made the announcement in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.
"We have formed a committee for SMP and are working on the matter. There is a 15-day notice period and after that ends, hopefully we will see visible progress," he said.
The BTRC chief said the matter would be implemented as per court order.
"We are also in talks with Grameenphone about this," he added.
Recently, three operators – Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk – complained to the BTRC that Grameenphone was implementing its marketing campaigns in the name of corporate social responsibility.
The trio in a joint letter to the regulator said being the largest operator, Grameenphone was taking advantage of the Covid-19 situation and had launched free call minute packages to regain its customers.
They also requested immediate imposition of SMP regulations.
Grameenphone, which lost 11 lakh subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, currently holds about 46 percent of the market share in the country.
Its Chief Executive Officer Yasir Azman said currently the nation was going through a crisis and the telecom industry needed to fight it together.
"I will not go into detail but at this point, our priority should be supporting the government to fight the pandemic," he said.
He also said it was positive that other operators also came up with similar offers like his company.
In February last year, the BTRC declared Grameenphone as the SMP operator but could not impose the restrictions as the operator moved to court. But the High Court on December 15 last year cleared the way for the telecom regulator.
Once the restrictions come into effect, the floor price of Grameenphone's call rate would go up by 5 paisa to Tk0.50 per minute.
Currently, the minimum call rate is Tk0.45 per minute for all operators. After adding the value added tax and other tariffs, the minimum rate goes up to Tk0.54.
But for Grameenphone, it will be Tk0.61 per minute. Its average call rate is now Tk0.73 per minute, according to its financial statement.
As per the second restriction, the market leader will have to pay 5 paisa more to other operators for the calls its subscribers make to other networks.
The final restriction made prior approval from the BTRC mandatory before Grameenphone rolls out any package.
Currently, operators can roll out packages just by informing the telecom regulator.
Meanwhile, Grameenphone on Tuesday deposited Tk1,000 crore to the BTRC as audit claim dues.
After a prolonged tussle with the regulator, Grameenphone on February 23 deposited Tk1,000 crore.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court has asked Grameenphone to pay Tk2,000 crore of the total BTRC claim of Tk12,445 crore after hearing a review petition filed by the company.
Grameenphone was scheduled to pay the remaining amount by May 31.