Published at: The Daily Star, February 11, 2019
The telecom regulator yesterday declared Grameenphone as the operator with the Significant Market Power (SMP) to enhance competition in the industry in a move that can shake up the country’s mobile telephony landscape.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has informed the top mobile phone operator about its decision in a letter. A copy of the letter was also sent to all other operators.
The move may restrict GP’s business growth.
The letter says the telecom watchdog will issue some “dos and don’ts” for the SMP operator later.
BTRC sources say the commission is working on eight points and GP might be charged additionally alongside regular taxes for customer acquisition.
The regulator plans to apply different prices to GP’s charges and call rates and the benchmark for it might be different from other operators when it comes to quality of services.
“We are now working on some issues. However, we will not do anything that hampers customers,” said Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the commission.
He said the BTRC would issue directives as early as possible which will impose some restrictions on GP.
GP said it wants the regulator to follow international best practices on this issue.
“Grameenphone would expect that the SMP regulation to follow established international and industry best practices, allowing the entire industry to further develop and grow to deliver on the national ambition of Digital Bangladesh for all,” said Sayed Talat Kamal, head of communications of the operator.
The SMP is a regulation that imposes restrictions on an operator once it corners 40 percent of the subscribers, revenues and spectrum, according the regulation of the BTRC.
The commission has found GP as the SMP in two categories: subscribers and revenue.
In 2018, the operator has 46.33 percent share of the active customer base. For the last few years, its revenue share has been more than 50 percent.
The number of GP’s active SIMs stood at 7.27 crore and revenue grew 3.4 percent to Tk 13,280 crore last year. It logged a record Tk 3,520 crore profit last year, the highest to date.
Officials say declaring the dominant operator as the SMP is a common practice in the developed world. The initiative, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, will help create a balance in the market.
The government has been working on the SMP issue since 2011 before passing it in November last year. The BTRC formed a committee to devise a process to implement it.
The committee recommended increasing the SMP operator’s tariffs for both voice calls and data and imposing different quality control parameters.
The regulation — already in place in India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia – states that if an operator is found to have wage anti-market activities, the BTRC can step in to break the monopoly or oligopoly.
Any competitor can file complaint against the SMP and the regulator will have a look into it.
The restrictions on GP are expected to give a leg up to Robi and Banglalink and to a certain extent to Teletalk.
Robi controls 29.87 percent of the subscriber base, followed by Banglalink 21.35 percent and Teletalk 2.46 percent.