DHAKA, July 29 (Xinhua) -- The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on Monday invited telecoms companies to apply for the South Asian country's first 3G or third generation mobile services licences.
The telecom regulator has fixed August 1 as the deadline for submission of the applications, according to a notification posted on the BTRC's website Monday afternoon. "This is to inform all the interested entities that the last date of submission of application to the commission for 3G Mobile Phone Services licence is August 1, 2013." In the notice, the commission has not mentioned a date when the auction for 3G will be held.
But BTRC Chairman Sunil Kanti Bose had earlier told local media that the auction for 3G cellular services would be held on Sept. 2. The auction date has already been deferred twice, first from June 24 and then July 31 due to a number of disputes between the cell phone companies and the government regarding issues like SIM tax and vat on 3G spectrum. Bangladesh in October last year officially entered the next generation of wireless communications when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the long-awaited 3G or third generation mobile services via state-run cellphone operator Teletalk. Teletalk got the opportunity to launch 3G before other private operators as being the state-run cell phone operator, officials said.
But officials said that the state-run company will have to pay for 3G spectrum the same amount of money other private operators spend although it does not need to take part in an auction.
Experts say the launch of 3G services could assist in minimizing the "digital divide" in Bangladesh, a country being poorly served by broadband internet services. Bangladesh has already finalized the draft of the 3G guideline to award licenses to run the third generation mobile services through an open auction.
Leading global telecom vendors -- Ericsson and Huawei -- are already running 3G trials in Bangladesh. Bangladesh's five private cellphone operators demanded since long for hastening the process of awarding licenses to run 3G mobile services which, they think, can boost the country's telecom growth. The Bangladeshi government in June last year signed a loan agreement worth 211 million U.S. dollars with the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim Bank) to support the South Asian country 's efforts in introduction of 3G and expansion of 2.5G network. At least four slots of bandwidth will be sold off at the open auction, a BTRC official who preferred to be unnamed had earlier said, adding almost all the big operators in the country's telecom sector like Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Airtel are expected to bid for the 3G spectrum.
Apart from Bangladesh's big private cellphone operators, he said foreign companies will also be able to take part in the auction to run 3G technology here where the total number of mobile phone subscribers reached 105.051 million at the end of June with nearly 8 million new users in the first half of this year
The latest BTRC data showed the number of subscribers of six cellphone operators -- Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi, Airtel, Citycell, Teletalk -- stood at 39.803 million, 25.743 million, 20. 144 million, 6.784 million, 1.683 million and 1.367 million respectively by the end of August.