Private mobile operator Citycell wants to resume operations in Bangladesh. It has already applied for a fourth-generation (4G) network licence.
Sources say the operator filed an application with four other mobile operators on January 14, the deadline for 4G application. It has also applied for spectrum, which is scheduled to be auctioned off on February 13.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Director General (legal and licensing) KM Shahiduzzaman said: “The arrears of Citycell has already been dismissed by a committee nominated by the Appellate Division.
“They have already paid a large sum of the overdue amount. The matter is at the hearing stage in court. So, steps will be taken according to the court’s final decision.
“If Citycell pays up the arrears and the court gives necessary directives, then there will be no legal impediments [to Citycell resuming operations].”
He said since Citycell did not have a 3G licence, it would first have to take part in spectrum auction and secure sufficient amount of spectrum before it can bid for 4G.
Sources say Citycell wants to resume telecom operations with a 4G licence but they could also be trying to only secure a licence.
Stakeholders say all the BTS and customer care centres of the operator are closed and there are no employees at its headquarters. A big investment will be needed for reviving the operator.
People involved with the telecom sector doubt whether the company has the capability for such investment, pointing out that Citycell is yet to pay its overdue fees.
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Former Citycell senior executive and president of its employees’ union Ashraful Karim said they, too, had heard that the company applied for 4G. “But there are doubts it will get the licence. We do not think it will resume operations,” he said.
“We have heard that the parent company will sell Citycell once it secures a 4G licence. There are rumours that two local business tycoons are interested to buy Citycell with 4G licence, and that they are communicating with some foreign companies,” Karim added.
He said the only employees Citycell currently had were a few security guards at its head office. “The company is yet to pay salaries of at least 50 officials. Others have been paid in stages,” he said.
On July 31, 2016, the BTRC requested Citycell clients to switch to other operators within two weeks. Citycell moved the court against the notice.
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The Appellate Division on August 29 that year permitted the company to continue operations on condition that it repays the Tk477.51 crore overdue fees in two installments to BTRC within two months.
After paying parts of the overdue fees, Citycell again moved the top court. The Supreme Court on November 3, 2016, asked the BTRC to immediately reinstate Citycell’s spectrum allocation on certain conditions.
But the spectrum was not reinstated even two days after the court’s ruling. The operator paid overdue fees of Tk144 crores and moved the court again.
Later, the top court in an order said the BTRC could suspend Citycell’s spectrum if the operator failed to pay Tk100 crores overdue fees within November 19, 2016. But it failed to make the payment and its spectrum was suspended on November 20.
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Citycell’s spectrum allocation was suspended on October 20, 2016, for its failure to pay overdue fees.
Apart from this, the BTRC wrote to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications on June 8 last year seeking permission to cancel Citycell’s licence.
On the other hand, Citycell’s operation was limited to paper work when it resumed operations on November 6, 2016. During this period no calls could be made from Citycell numbers or received.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com