BTRC slashes GP, Robi bandwidth

HM Murtuza | Updated at 10:33pm on July 04, 2019

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on Thursday reduced internet bandwidth capacity of Grameenphone and Robi by 30 per cent and 15 per cent respectively as the operators refrained from paying the BTRC audit claims worth Tk 13,447.18 crore.

The commission in two separate directives — one about GP and the other about Robi — asked the international internet gateways (IIGs) to implement the instruction immediately.

The IIGs were also asked to refrain from providing additional bandwidth to the mobile operators.

A BTRC statement, issued by its senior assistant director Zakir Hossain Khan, said that the commission took the move against Grameenphone and Robi due to the operators’ non-payment of audit claims.

It is expected that the operators would be able to serve their customers in their usual manner soon by clearing BTRC’s dues, it said.

Officials of the mobile phone operators said that the cut in bandwidth of the mobile phone operators would ultimately result in poor customers’ experience in internet use.

As per the BTRC’s directive, bandwidth capacity of the leading mobile phone operator GP would be limited to 146.96 gigabit per second (Gbps), 30 per cent lower than the operator’s existing consumption.

The BTRC directive said, ‘Bandwidth capacity of GP would be limited as it refrained from paying audit claim Tk 12,579.95 crore.’

Under the BTRC’s instruction, Level-3 Carrier Limited would provide highest 40.56 Gbps bandwidth to GP, Aamra Technology 79.8 Gbps, Summit Communications 14 Gbps, Fiber @ Home Global 7 Gbps and Mango Teleservices 5.6 Gbps.

In a separate directive, the BTRC instructed that the bandwidth supply to Robi Axiata, the second largest mobile phone operator in the country, would be limited to 128.07 Gbps. The figure is also 15 per cent lower than the operator’s existing usage.

Of the bandwidth, Aamra Technology has been allowed to provide highest 38.57 Gbps to Robi, Summit Communications 48.88 Gbps, Fiber @ Home Global 25.93 Gbps, Level-3 Carrier Limited 10.63 Gbps and Mango Teleservices 4.08 Gbps.

A Grameenphone statement issued in this regard said, ‘This instruction disregards our invitation to BTRC for a constructive arbitration process on the audit.’

‘The decision to forcefully reduce bandwidth runs counter to supporting customer interests,’ it said, adding, ‘This instruction seems to be designed to penalise our gateway partners and could have a negative impact on millions of Bangladeshi data users.’

‘We are surprised by the instruction and question the legality of this action,’ the GP statement said.

In a separate statement, Robi chief corporate and regulatory officer Shahed Alam said, ‘The decision to limit bandwidth hurts interest of the consumers.’

‘We are deeply disturbed by this draconian step from a regulator,’ he said, adding, ‘We had already raised our concerns regarding the fundamentally flawed audit claims through official correspondence with BTRC.’

Robi had requested the BTRC to settle the dispute through arbitration for a number of times, which was completely a lawful means to solve such a matter, he said.

Rather than choosing the path of arbitration, the BTRC has decided to take a step that hurts the interests of the customers the most, Shahed said.

‘However, we are confident that we can ensure satisfactory level of quality of our service even with the limited bandwidth,’ he added.

On April 2 this year, the telecom regulator issued a Tk 12,579.95-crore demand letter to GP after the submission of the final audit report by Toha Khan Zaman & Co on March 25 this year.

The operator was asked to pay the money in two weeks.

Refraining from paying the claim, GP said that its observations on the errors in the methodologies of audit through which the government claimed Tk 12,579.95 crore in dues from the operator remained unaddressed.

In July, 2018, the commission issued a demand letter to Robi claiming Tk 867 crore in dues based on an audit report on the entity’s information system.

The claim is yet to be paid by the operator.