CityCell’s switch from CDMA to GSM pending licence renewal

29 Jun 2012

Bangladeshi CDMA-based mobile operator CityCell plans to invest an initial USD200 million in switching to GSM technology, pending regulatory permission, reports local newspaper The Daily Star. CityCell, backed by Singapore’s SingTel, will have to pay USD90 million for 5MHz of wireless spectrum in the 1800MHz band for providing GSM services, as it currently operates with 10MHz in the 800MHz CDMA band. A spokesperson said the company would keep 5MHz of its 800MHz allocation to serve remaining CDMA customers. The operator has 860 base transceiver stations (BTS), a number which it plans to increase to 2,500. CityCell’s renewed licence will be technology-neutral, while on 25 June the firm submitted a request for a ‘no-objection certificate’ from the regulatory authorities to introduce GSM technology. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) stated that it will only consider CityCell’s request when its licence renewal process is complete, following delays related to legal arguments over terms of the renewal which are pending in court.

In its application to the BTRC, CityCell said that, ‘due to the limitation of CDMA’ (referring largely to the relative lack of choice of user devices available compared to GSM networks in the country), its customer base is declining gradually. The operator had 1.85 million subscribers in 2009 but the total shrank to 1.35 million reported in May 2012. CityCell also says that its level of cost subsidy offered to new users buying a CDMA device is higher than any of its GSM-based rivals in the country.

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