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Government to end fibre optic monopoly

  • Published at 05:37 am May 17th, 2013
Government to end fibre optic monopoly

The government has decided to allow mobile phone and WiMAX operators to install fibre optic network across the country – along with the existing NTTN operators – at a reduced rate of licence fee.

It is also likely to reduce the annual licence fee, revenue sharing and bank performance guaranty for the service providers and relax a few other conditions, but it takes a hard stance about the obligations for rolling out businesses.

“The government has expressed its wish to change the guideline for NTTN [Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network], and we have done it,” said ATM Monirul Alam, commissioner of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

“To build a digital country we need to use all the existing assets. So, we have made mobile phone operators and WiMAX operators eligible for the NTTN,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

The BTRC prepared the recommendations at its 151st meeting held in April.

Although it is mandatory for the BTRC to inform stakeholders about such changes within 15 days of making decisions, the commission is yet to do so.

NTTN operators have meanwhile alleged that the changes will incur Tk2bn to Tk3bn investment loss to them while it will also destroy the local telecom entrepreneurs. They say the changes will create job opportunities in the mobile phone and WiMAX businesses, which will also cause them some losses.

“The objective of the NTTN licence was to make access network and transmission network separate, but if the government now changes the guideline, as we heard, it will be damaging for local investment,” ArifAl Islam, CEO of Summit Communication, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

According to the minutes of the BTRC meeting, the government wants to use the existing network of the mobile phone and WiMAX operators “properly” if they establish separate subsidiary companies.

The BTRC developed the idea of NTTN in 2008 to build fibre optic network across the country.

The [email protected] Limited got the first telecom licence from the present government on January 9, 2009 followed by the Summit Communication, which got its NTTN licence on December 22 the same year.

Earlier, the BTRC forced everyone to use the NTTN to connect to the internet. At that time, there was restriction on networking business by mobile phone operators.

According to the previous guideline, an NTTN operator could take 10 years for installing fibre optic connectivity up to upazila level. In the proposed changes, the BTRC now gives only five years to bring 80% upazila headquarters under the network.

In the proposed guideline, the licence fee for an NTTN operator has been reduced to Tk10m from Tk30m while the annual licence fee has been fixed at Tk1m from Tk2.5m. The bank performance guaranty has been cut to Tk50m from Tk100m.

The new NTTN operators will enjoy 0% revenue sharing for the first two years and 1% afterwards. Earlier, it was 0% for the first year, 1% for the second and third years, 2% for the fourth and fifth years and 3% in the next six years.

The proposal says if an NTTN operator can extend its network up to the union parishad level beyond upazilas within these five years, it will be exempted from the revenue sharing and get assistance from the government’s social obligation fund.

“We do not understand the logic of these changes. If the government cannot protect its own guideline, who else can?” Moynul HaqueSiddique, managing director of [email protected], told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

“Local entrepreneurs may lose interest in investing in the telecom sector,” he said.

The [email protected] has already fulfilled its three-year roll-out obligations as its network is available in 23 districts and 90 upazilas by now, according to information on its website. The Summit Communication has also fulfilled the two-year roll-out obligations.