Bangladesh’s telecoms ministry has decided to alter 3G auctioning guidelines to allow the possibility of more than one new entrant to the mobile sector, or alternatively to give more of the existing cellcos a chance to gain a 3G licence. As reported by the Financial Express, Abubakar Siddique, secretary for post and telecommunications, confirmed that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has decided to offer 5MHz slots in the 2100MHz band instead of the earlier proposed 10MHz slots. ‘The new slot of spectrum would not only help the small operators commercially, but it also paves the way for more foreign operators who are keen to invest here,’ the secretary stated. In the original draft guideline, the regulator had proposed allocating 2×50MHz for five 3G licences, of which four would be reserved for domestic cellcos while another would be open to foreign bidders.
With one licence reserved for state-owned Teletalk (which has already been permitted to launch services), the telecom secretary noted that the auction will now be held for eight slots instead of the previously proposed four, while bidders will be allowed to buy two slots if all the bands are not acquired in the initial bidding phase. He added that all the existing cellcos had given their consent to the latest plan. The ministry will issue the final 3G guideline next week. After finalising the guideline, the BTRC will take ‘a few months’ to prepare for the auction, including seeking Expressions of Interest (EoI) and finalising formal applications. The Finance Ministry previously predicted that the auction would be held in February, but the process will take longer; a subsequent claim that the sale would go ahead in March also looks unlikely.