Finance Minister steps in as mediator in GP/Robi-BTRC audit dispute

19 Sep 2019

Bangladeshi Finance Minister Mustafa Kamal has stepped in as a mediator in the drawn-out conflict between telecoms regulator the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) and mobile operators GrameenPhone (GP) and Robi, The Daily Star reports. Following meetings with representatives from GP, Robi, the National Board of Revenue and the BTRC, Mustafa Kamal told reporters: ‘We will resolve this [issue] within the next two-three weeks … If we continue with our claims, a resolution will take a long time and that will hamper the mobile operators’ business and restrict our revenue growth too.’

Earlier this year the regulator requested that the duo pay dues totalling BDT125.80 billion (USD1.46 billion, GP) and BDT8.67 billion (Robi), which were detected in audits and are currently disputed by the two operators. The cellcos had demanded an arbitration, but the BTRC denied the request, claiming that legislation did not allow it. Due to the impasse with the BTRC, the two operators are currently banned from getting approvals for new services and packages and cannot import equipment to maintain their networks. In July 2019 the BTRC slashed GP’s bandwidth by 30% and Robi’s by 15% for the non-payment of the dues, but the block was lifted by mid-July as it was causing issues to subscribers. Further, the BTRC threatened GP and Robi with cancellations of their 2G/3G concessions if the requested sums are not settled, prompting GP and Robi to file cases with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims.

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