Tk 7,634 crore worth of spectrum was sold to three mobile operators of the country at an auction on the 8th of March.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sold 27.4 MHz (megahertz) of spectrum, which consisted of bands from 1,800MHz to 2,100MHz, to Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi. The spectrum can be used by the operators for the next 15 years.
In 2018, the government sold nearly Tk 3,940 crore by selling 16.6MHz of the spectrum to Banglalink and Grameenphone.
The new frequency allocation, apart from helping out the government exchequer, will help improve the mobile phone services to some extent, as the user occupancy in Bangladesh as the per-megahertz spectrum will now drop by 2 lakh.
In the current time period, the user occupancy against per MHz spectrum in Bangladesh is more than 13 lakh, in comparison it is only at 2-3 lakh in Nepal and Myanmar. The BTRC started the process on the 7.4MHz spectrum from the 1,800MHz band and 20MHz from the 2,100MHz band.
The base price was set at $27 million for each MHz of spectrum in the 2,100 band, and $31 million (Tk 264 crore) per MHz in the 1,800 band. The 7.4 MHz spectrum from the 1,800 band was divided into five blocks, while 20 MHz from the 2,100 band was divided into four blocks. The state-owned Teletalk skipped the auction while 3 other operators participated in the 1,800 band auction. The auction spectrum in this band was sold at the base price as the price was not increased during the bidding rounds.
Among the private mobile network operators, Banglalink, the country’s third largest mobile operator, secured 4.4MHz of spectrum while Robi secured 2.6MHz and the market leader Grameenphone secured 0.4 MHz in the 1,800 band. For the 2,100 band however, all the mobile operators went into a bidding war.
The price was increased from $27 million (Tk 230 crore) per MHz to $29 million (Tk 247 crore) in the first block of the band. Each of the 3 private mobile operators procured 5MHz spectrum in this band. While the state-owned Teletalk participated in the bidding, they withdrew their candidacy once the price started to rise. However, the remaining 5MHz of the 2,100 band saw a close competition in the auction.
All the operators participated in the bidding of this block. There was a competitiveness between the 3 operators, even after Banglalink’s withdrawal. At one point, Teletalk appeared to be interested in securing this block as it was bidding eagerly. However it could not keep up in the race and withdrew it from the bidding.
After the withdrawals, there was stiff competition between Grameenphone and Robi. Both operators bid 81 times, chasing each other tooth and nail. But in the end, Robi gave way to Grameenphone when the price went up to $46.75 million (Tk 397 crore) per megahertz (MHz), an increase of $19.75 million (Tk 168 crore) from the floor price.
Among the four operators in the country, Grameenphone procured 10.4MHz spectrum from two bands on Monday, while Banglalink purchased 9.4MHz and Robi bought only 7.6MHz. With this, Grameenphone now will have 47.4MHz of spectrum, Robi 44MHz, Banglalink 40MHz, and Teletalk 25.2MHz in three different bands.
According to the BTRC, Grameenphone still has the lowest spectrum coverage for its users. Over 17 lakh Grameenphone subscribers are currently occupying each MHz of spectrum. Robi serves 11 lakh subscribers with the same frequency, while Banglalink has 9 lakh users in each MHz of spectrum.