The chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Shahjahan Mahmood, has told national newspaper The Daily Star that the watchdog intends to give cellcos the green light for technology neutral usage of all existing licensed spectrum as soon as possible, thereby allowing them to launch 4G LTE services, whilst an auction for additional LTE-suitable frequencies is planned ‘in four months’. ‘Prior to the auction, we will give go-ahead to technology neutrality for all existing spectrum,’ confirmed Mahmood, adding: ‘We may charge the operators for technology neutrality … The rate of charge is yet to be fixed.’ He also stated that the additional 4G spectrum licences will have higher fees than previously auctioned 2100MHz licences. TeleGeography notes that although existing 2100MHz licences technically permit the launch of 4G services, Bangladeshi operators have no available capacity to do so, having used the 2100MHz spectrum to meet 3G demand, whilst their 900MHz and 1800MHz frequencies are currently restricted to GSM usage.
The Star’s report adds that in a meeting last week the Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy directed the BTRC and other government telecoms officials to introduce 4G services as soon as possible. Spectrum available for the upcoming auction includes an unsold 2×15MHz 2100MHz block, plus frequencies in the 1800MHz band and a portion of 900MHz bandwidth made surplus following the recent merger of Robi Axiata and Airtel Bangladesh. Major operators including market leader GrameenPhone have indicated the aim to be technically ready to launch LTE immediately after regulatory approval.