The Dhaka Tribune reports that the Bangladeshi government has decided to award Russian-backed Ollo the country’s third Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licence – which under recent regulatory amendments allows 4G TD-LTE mobile broadband service as well as mobile WiMAX. No auction was held for the 2500MHz band licence, which had gone unsold in the BWA auction of 2008. According to the report, Ollo – which currently operates fixed-wireless WiMAX services in the capital – will have to pay BDT2.46 billion (USD31.1 million) for the 2500MHz BWA licence, after telecoms minister Shahara Khatun approved the award on Monday evening. The approval is likely to be sent to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) by today (Tuesday 5 November), a ministry official confirmed to the Tribune. An official of the BTRC said the regulator had sent a letter signed by its Senior Assistant Director Shazeda Parvin to Bangladesh Internet Exchange Limited (BIEL, a joint venture partner in Ollo) on 15 September, informing it about the licence award.
The Tribune quotes legal experts as saying that the government might face a legal challenge to the decision, as there had been no reappraisal of the price for BWA spectrum leftover from the 2008 auction, while the telecoms minister told the paper simply: ‘Journalists need not know what we are going to do. The government will decide what is best for the people.’ The Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) previously said it disagreed with the licence award to Ollo and requested the government assign spectrum through ‘proper valuation.’
TeleGeography notes that Ollo is a joint venture between two Bangladeshi ISPs – New Generation Graphics Limited (NGGL) and BIEL – and the latter’s Russian-based parent company Multinet, which bought BIEL in 2011 and injected investment into the newly formed Ollo joint brand, with additional investment from the Russian ICT Group. Ollo applied for a vacant mobile WiMAX (BWA) 2.5GHz licence left over from the 2008 auction, and in July 2013 the regulator sent a recommendation for licence approval to the telecoms ministry. Ollo currently operates fixed-wireless 3.5GHz WiMAX services in Dhaka, where its USB (dongle) modems can be used ‘within 200 metres from an Ollo base station’, whereas the two current BWA operators Banglalion and Qubee operate 2.5GHz mobile WiMAX and are both in the process of upgrading to LTE technology, with tests expected to be launched shortly.