Bangladesh’s oldest mobile operator, CDMA-based CityCell, has closed down its operations after having its spectrum frequency rights cancelled because of failure to pay overdue fees, the Daily Star reported. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) made the final decision to shut down CityCell on Thursday after the operator failed to pay a sufficient portion of its dues by Wednesday’s deadline. Tarana Halim, state minister for telecoms, confirmed to the local press that the ruling was binding, stating: ‘We have taken the decision in line with a High Court verdict. The spectrum suspension is permanent and there is no scope to change it.’ According to the Star’s report, a technical team of the regulator shut down the main network switch at CityCell’s headquarters in Mohakhali, Dhaka, whilst the police and the Rapid Action Battalion cordoned off the building. BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood has claimed that sufficient prior warning had been given to CityCell’s network users, saying that ‘the subscribers will not be affected. I am quite sure the serious subscribers have already shifted to other operators.’
CityCell, which is part-owned by Singapore’s Singtel, owed BDT4.777 billion (USD59.6 million) to the regulator; under a court order it was expected to pay BDT3.18 billion of the total by Wednesday, but it raised only BDT1.30 billion by the deadline in a failed attempt to avoid closure. BTRC had been demanding CityCell pay dues for several years, which included spectrum renewal fees of BDT2.29 billion plus annual licence fees, annual spectrum fees, VAT and late fees. CityCell had long disagreed with the level of spectrum renewal charges as it said it was unable to utilise its full official allocation of CDMA frequencies. CityCell also reportedly owes ‘several thousand crores’ (i.e. an amount measured in multiples of BDT10 billion) to financial institutions, vendors and other mobile operators.