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Banglalink, Grameenphone and Robi have Requested to Fix the Price of Frequency Band at Taka

Banglalink, Grameenphone, and Robi have requested the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to determine the exchange rate of spectrum in local currency instead of US dollars. Mobile operators want to pay for spectrum in takas instead of using American dollars, as they have been doing for the past 10 years.

Due to the global economic downturn, the exchange rate of the dollar in the country has increased significantly, requiring them to pay more in local currency for the spectrum compared to the designated value in dollars. To address this, they have communicated to the regulatory authority, BTRC, through a letter. According to sources, the operators are seeking this change to align with other South Asian countries, where everyone now pays for spectrum bills in local currencies, except for Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In Bangladesh, the base price of the spectrum or the wave-based value was determined in local currency from 2008 to 2011. Later, in February 2013, the wave value per megahertz was set at two million dollars. Since then, operators have been paying the spectrum fee in US dollars. Operators argue that there was no discrepancy in the exchange rate when the government fixed it in dollars, and they did not raise any objections.

However, since 2021, with the onset of the global economic downturn, the exchange rate of the dollar has increased by 30 percent. In this context, if the total cost of the spectrum is calculated in Bangladeshi currency, it requires 30 percent more. Three mobile operators express concerns about the potential further increase in the future. When asked about the operators’ letter, BTRC Chairman Shyam Sundar Sikder stated that there has been no decision or discussion on this matter.

Operators claim that their operations are conducted in Bangladeshi currency. There is no negotiation for payment of the spectrum fee in US dollars. They argue that if the value is fixed in Bangladeshi currency, it will be economically feasible for their business operations. More investment is needed in the network to provide better service to customers, but if they invest 1 taka in purchasing spectrum, they need to invest an additional 0.50 taka. This results in increased operational costs for them. Even though the demand is high, operators supply less spectrum if the cost of spectrum increases.

Operators emphasize the need to determine the economic value of spectrum for its appropriate use. Unused spectrum does not generate any economic value. They mention in their letter that the current and future policies regarding spectrum allocation, including spectrum renewal, should also be applicable in the context of spectrum rejuvenation.

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