Uncertainty looms over MNP service auction

Ahmed Shawki | Published: 23:01, Nov 28,2016


Doubts have surfaced whether the auction of mobile number portability service licence would be held as more than one out of the five short-listed firms failed to get security clearance, said officials.
The MNP service would allow the mobile phone users to change operator without changing their existing number.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission last week sought suggestion from the posts and telecommunications ministry about the matter as the short-listed firms have already deposited bid earnest money.
The BTRC was scheduled to hold the MNP service auction by September but postponed it amid security concern as all the selected firms have foreign partners.
The five firms are: REVE Number Ltd, Greentech International Ltd, Infozillion BD Telelech Consortium Ltd, Brazil-Bangladesh Consortium Ltd and Roots Infotech Ltd.
Officials of the BTRC and the ministry said that the matter was complicated as the firms were selected according to the Public Procurement Rules and the BTRC also received the bid earnest money.
They said that the security clearance was also very important as the winning company would handle sensitive private information of the mobile phone users.
There are two possible options to avoid complicacy — either to cancel the entire bidding process or to amend the MNP service guidelines, they said.
Asked about the issue, telecom secretary Faizur Rahman Chowdhury told New Age that the ministry received a letter in this connection.
‘We are working on it. The BTRC demanded some changes to the guidelines on the MNP. After proper assessment we will be able to tell [our] clear position,’ he said on Monday.
According to the MNP guidelines, a subscriber will be able to switch to any operator keeping his existing mobile number by paying Tk 30 and will have to continue with the changed-operator for a minimum of 45 days.
The MNP licensee will have to have experience of handling at least 1 crore subscribers.
With this condition, no local firm will be able to participate in the auction alone as there is no such company in the country.
The MNP licence will be valid for 15 years and the licensed company will have to share revenue with the government at 5.5 per cent from the second year of operation.
According to the guidelines, owner or director, partner, investor or shareholder of any mobile phone operator registered in Bangladesh will be ineligible to take part in the auction.
Both local and foreign companies will be eligible for taking part in the MNP auction, but a foreign company will have to apply in partnership with a local company, it said.
The guidelines also have scopes for introducing value-added services in the MNP.
In June 2013, the telecom regulator asked the mobile phone operators to introduce the MNP service by January 2014 but the operators failed to do so.
Later, the BTRC decided to appoint a third-party company to implement the service.
Currently, some 72 countries including neighbouring India and Pakistan have already adopted the popular system for their customers, with Singapore being the pioneer in this field. 

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