BTRC scraps decision to assign new number series to GP

Staff Correspondent | Published at 10:31pm on January 15, 2017


A file photo shows a man walking past a Grameenphone customer service centre in Dhaka. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has withdrawn its decision to assign a new number series to mobile operator Grameenphone with 013 prefix. — New Age photo

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has withdrawn its decision to assign a new number series to mobile operator Grameenphone with 013 prefix as the commission looks to unblock a huge number of inactive connections of the operator.
The commission in a meeting led by its chairman Shahjahan Mahmood recently withdrew the decision that was taken in August, 2016 to assign 013 number series to GP, said officials.
GP had applied for a new number series saying that it was running out of new connections under 017 prefix. Under the government’s existing plan, a numbering series has 10 crore slots.
The commission meeting decided to find ways to unblock a huge number of inactive connections of the operator by reducing the time for an unused SIM to remain active to six months from the present tenure of 15 months.
‘The commission has decided not to assign new number series to GP for the time being. As we have found that there is a huge number of inactive SIMs of the operator, we have decided to give it the scope to unblock and sell the SIMs,’ Mahmood told New Age on Sunday.
He estimated that the number of blocked SIMs which could be sold was at least 1.25 crore.
The SIMs have remained blocked for years due to re-registration failure and use in illegal VoIP, said commission officials.
Mahmood also said the SIM numbers are national property which should not be misused and the numbers would also meet their demand for new connections for now.
The BTRC meeting was also told that Banglalink was facing similar problem of number shortage and if the tenure of the SIM holding reduced, the operator would also get a huge number of inactive SIMs ready for sales.
Mahmood said that there was no urgency to allocate one more new number series right now and when the total number of SIMs would reach around 20 crore, the issue would come for consideration. At present, the country has 12.07 crore active mobile subscribers.
The commission formed a committee which would assess the possibility of reducing the tenure of holding of any inactive SIM by the subscribers to 6 months — three months without any fee plus three months as notice period — from the current 15 months, said officials.
In March 2015, the telecom regulator for the first time set maximum 2 years ownership for unused SIM.
Later in October that year, the BTRC reduced the ownership period to 15 months following an application made by mobile operators.
The committee headed by engineering and operation department director general Md Mustafa Kamal was asked to submit a report within one month.
The committee was also asked to set minimum charge for keeping ownership of a SIM number from the seventh month of inactivity, if a subscribe desires to keep ownership despite such inactivity.
On the other hand, mobile operators will have to pay subscribers’ unused balance in favour of the BTRC after reselling an inactive SIMs.
BTRC officials said that GP on December 15, 2016 in a letter to the BTRC claimed that its 017 number series would finish by this month.
The company also requested the commission to reduce SIM reselling time from the existing 15 months to 6 months including three month notice period.
The operator in its letter said once the reselling period for the existing SIM number reduced to 6 months, the operator would be able to resell 2.30 crore numbers.
The existing active subscribers of GP are 5.57 crore while it will be able to resell 2.30 crore inactive SIMs if the tenure is cut. ‘So, GP will get enough time to reach 10-crore mark if the tenure of SIM holding is cut,’ explained an official.
The mobile phone operator for the first time in January 25, 2015 applied to the regulator seeking new number premix.
Although the commission decided to assign the new number series of 013, it held back awarding the number to GP till the end of an ongoing audit into the company.
The operator, however, opposed the telecom regulator’s move.
Meanwhile, another operator Banglalink, with a subscriber base of 2.89 crore, has also applied for a new number series.
The recent merger between Robi and Airtel has allowed the merged entity, Robi, to enjoy a 20-crore connections facility combining the capacity of two operators.