Robi Axiata Limited, the second-largest mobile phone operator in the country, will have to offload its stake in edotco so that the latter becomes eligible to get tower sharing licence, said a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission clarification notice issued on Monday.
The BTRC clarification issued under the tower sharing guidelines by its deputy director SM Golam Sorwar on Monday also said that besides Robi, in case of any other mobile phone operator having ownership in any proposed tower sharing company, will have to discharge their ownership to make the company eligible for the licence.
Apart from that, a proposed tower sharing company and mobile network operator or broadband wireless access operator should not have same direct shareholders, it said.
At present, Robi has 20 per cent ownership in edotco, running with government’s no-objection certificate, while the rest 80 per cent shares of the entity is owned by Malaysia-based edotco Group while Axiata, the parent company of Robi by holding 68.7 per cent share, is also the parent company of edotco Group by holding 63 per cent shares.
The BTRC clarification also said that there would be no validity of the existing NOC of edotco after the completion of tower sharing licensing procedure.
A senior official told New Age that the provision of not allowing any MNO-affiliated company for tower sharing company was to prevent any sort of potential discrimination in services among the mobile phone companies by the tower sharing company.
If any MNO-affiliated company gets tower sharing licence, it may provide additional facility to the MNO that would ultimately create problem for other operators and become a hindrance to creating level-playing field, he said.
edotco has initiated a move to resolve the issue of Robi’s shareholding in
edotco and hope that there would be no barrier to becoming eligible for the licence, said Md Manzoorul Islam, director of edotco.
Speaking about the Axiata Group’s shareholding in edotco Group and Robi, he said, ‘We have talked to the BTRC over the issue and it would not be a problem for edotco becoming eligible for the licence.’
The BTRC clarification on value-added tax payment by the eligible companies against fees and charges related with tower sharing licensing said that the commission would provide a copy of VAT challan.
The commission issued the clarifications following queries from the mobile phone operators after the guidelines were published in April 1 this year along with the call for proposals from the competent entities.
The BTRC invitation asked the competent entities to submit proposals within May 13 this year.
As per the guidelines, an interested entity must be a joint venture company with a Bangladeshi partner, while the foreign partner/partners will have to limit their shareholding within 70 per cent.
Having minimum three years of experience in successful tower sharing business along with operation of at least 5,000 towers has also been made mandatory to be eligible for the licence.