The government is likely to allocate additional spectrum to cellphone companies at a reduced price following their applications on surge in demand for data during the Covid-19 shutdowns.
Data consumption has increased manifold during the Covid-19 lockdown that started from March 26.
The three operators have placed a proposal to the government last week seeking 5 Megahertz spectrum each from the 2,100 band — where 20 MHz of spectrum has been sitting idle for years — for free for three months.
But soon after Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk had placed in their request for extra spectrum, Grameenphone put in a separate proposal: it wants extra spectrum and it wants to pay for it.
Md Jahurul Haque, Chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), told Business Mirror that three operators demanded additional spectrum from the government in written applications.
“The operators Robi, Banglalink and state-run Teletalk has submitted applications to the regulator,” he added.
“The Commission is strongly considering their application, but as per law we cannot allocate them free spectrum,” he said adding the operators may get opportunity to pay the spectrum fee 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.
Another official of the BTRC said 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.
According to BTRC, internet use in the country was 922 GBps last year and 894 GBps in 2018. The BTRC data shows 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.
Data consumption has increased manifold during the Covid-19 shutdown that started from March 26.
People are staying home more time for which depended on the internet for their work, availing emergency services and entertainment..
At present, market leader GrameenPhone has 37 MHz spectrum, Robi 36.4 MHz, Banglalink 30.6 MHz and Teletalk has 25.2 MHz spectrum in three different bands.
A high official of Robi said due to the lockdown its data traffic has surged more than 25 per cent. It is not possible to maintain a standard customer experience for all with the spectrum it has.
The operator has long been requesting the government to reduce the price of the spectrum to make it viable for it to purchase the amount of spectrum it needs to satisfy its customers’ quality expectations.