BTRC halts NOC issuance to GP, Robi over unpaid audit claims

New packages, equipment imports to be hit

HM Murtuza | Published: 00:00, Jul 23,2019


File photos show Grameenphone headquarters, left, and Robi head office in capital Dhaka. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Monday halted issuance of any sort of no-objection certificates to two mobile phone operators — Grameenphone and Robi.— New Age photo

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Monday halted issuance of any sort of no-objection certificates to two mobile phone operators — Grameenphone and Robi.

The BTRC move came in line with the announcement made by its chairman Md Jahurul Haque on July 17 that the commission would take such step to realise Tk 13,446.95 in audit claims from the operators.

As a result of the move, the operators would not be able to float new packages and services, and the operators would not be able to open letter of credits for importing equipment and software as well.

Besides, the operators have been barred from running packages after the expiry of BTRC’s existing NOC for the packages.

The operators have also been barred from opening LCs for importing software and services for which they have already secured BTRC approval.

In case of releasing equipment, waiting to be released from the ports, the operators will have to take fresh approval for releasing those from the ports.

The regulatory sanction will be valid until the payment of audit claims, according to the BTRC letters to GP and Robi.

To this end, the commission issued two separate letters to the mobile phone operators on Monday.

The operators, dejected by the regulatory move, said that the commission should withdraw its sanction over the operators.

‘We have received the letter and it is now under assessment,’ said a GP statement.

‘However, we are concerned over the BTRC decision to withhold NOCs,’ said GP, adding, ‘We still believe that the best way to resolve our differences is through dialogue and arbitration.’

Robi officials said that they were yet to receive the BTRC letter regarding the NOC suspension.

Robi Axiata chief corporate and regulatory officer Shahed Alam, however, said if made, the decision would only increase the sufferings of the customers.

Stopping NOC would lead to seizure of the ongoing investments, he said.

As a result, network expansion and all other planned activities to improve the quality of service will also come to a halt, the Robi official said.

‘Not just that, companies who are integral to the telecom sector, such as network partner, NTTN operators and ICT companies will be adversely impacted by this decision,’ said Shahed.

‘Besides, businesses of the three new tower company licensees will also be severely hampered.’

‘On the whole, this unfortunate decision will have a multifarious negative impact on the industry,’ he said.

Mentioning that the Arbitration Act 2001 is applicable to resolving any disputes within the country, Shahed said, ‘We strongly believe that rather than applying undue pressure to collect the flawed claim amount, a structured approach to resolve the dispute through arbitration will best serve the interest of the people and the country.’

The commission has been taking regulatory measures to recover two separate audit claims — Tk 12,579.95 crore from GP and Tk 867 crore from Robi.

The commission withdrew its earlier embargo on bandwidth of the mobile operators on July 17 considering the sufferings of users following an instruction from the prime minister’s ICT affairs adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy.

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