Bangladesh fetches $885 mn during spectrum auction in March 2021

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said mobile operators – Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink – bought 27.4 megahertz of spectrum for $885.35 million during the spectrum auction in March 2021.
The Bangladesh telecom regulator kept 7.4 MHz of spectrum in 1800 band and 20 MHz in 2100 band for sale.

The base price for 1800 band was $31 million per megahertz, and for 2100 band, it was $27 million. The spectrum was given for 15 years.

Grameenphone, promoted by Telenor, purchased 0.4 MHz in 1800 band and 10 MHz in 2100 band at a combined price of $378.75 million. The acquisition took Grameenphone’s total spectrum to 47.4 MHz.

Jens Becker, acting chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said: “This spectrum award is important for Grameenphone to support the national digitalization agenda of Bangladesh and empower more people all across Bangladesh with access to 4G.”

Robi, the second-largest operator and a joint venture of Axiata Group Malaysia, Bharti Airtel India and NTT Docomo Japan,  has acquired 2.6 MHz in 1800 band and 5 MHz in the 2100 band. It has to pay $225.6 million. Robi will have 44 MHz and Banglalink 40 MHz.

Banglalink, which is part of VEON, took 4.4 MHz in 1,800 band and 5 MHZ in 2100 band for $281 million. The newly acquired spectrum will see Banglalink increase its total spectrum holding from 30.6MHz to 40MHz, enabling it to retain the leading position among all private operators in Bangladesh in terms of spectrum provided per subscriber.

Erik Aas, chief executive officer of Banglalink, said: “We continue to focus on performance and have made significant improvements in key indicators such as market share, data revenue and data customer base.”

State-run Teletalk took part in the auction for 2100 band but withdrew its bid at one point. It did not participate in the auction for the 1800 band at all. Teletalk’s spectrum remains unchanged at 25.2 MHz.

The operators will have to deposit 25 percent of the spectrum price by March 23 this year. The rest will be paid in installments at 15 percent per year over a five-year period.

During an auction in 2013, 1800 band was dedicated for 3G service and 900 band for 2G service. In 2018, 2100 band was allowed to provide 4G service.

Later, the commission introduced technology neutrality, allowing the operators to offer 2G, 3G and 4G services from any band they see fit. The move is helping to reduce operational costs and improve service quality.

Bangladeshi cell phone companies had earlier bid nearly $500 million in an auction in February 2018 to obtain spectrum for 4G services as part of the government’s plans to expedite the launch of 4G mobile services.

Grameenphone has 8.04 crore subscribers, Robi Axiata 5.15 crore subscribers, Banglalink 3.59 crore, and Teletalk 55.32 lakh, according to the BTRC.