Hold dialogue to end telecom disputes


The telecom regulator should hold regular talks with the operators to end all disputes in the sector, Grameenphone Chief Executive Officer Tore Johnsen says.

“That will improve the climate between the operators and the regulator," he says.

The regulator and the operators should discuss how all want to see the picture of the sector in future, Johnsen says in an interview.

The Grameenphone CEO sat with some journalists on Monday to discuss the telecom sector and other current issues on the eve of World Telecommunication Day today.

Chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has recently invited the chief executives of all mobile operators to sit in dialogues every month, which Johnsen says is a good initiative.

The Grameenphone CEO also says the government should have a roadmap to develop the sector. He hopes such regular meetings will help the government meet its goals on what it should do and what not.

There are a number of regulations in Bangladesh that are very good for the sector, he says, adding that the telecom act witnessed some good changes in 2010.

However, on some recent developments in the sector, Johnsen says there is a lack of international best practices in the sector.

For example, he criticised the spectrum pricing method tagged with 2G licence renewal, where Grameenphone had to pay much higher than other operators for per megahertz of airwave.

Getting approval from the government for various types of issues such as packages or tariffs takes a lot of time, he says.

For taking an approval, an operator needs to go to the BTRC and the telecom ministry, which takes a lot of time and slows down operations, says the official.

He also says too many telecom licences and regulations are affecting the operators, and it is customers who ultimately bear the pains.

Johnsen particularly criticised the huge number of gateways licences -- more than 80 in number -- that the government offered recently.

Many of the licencees will not sustain, the Grameenphone CEO says.

About the upcoming value added service (VAS) guideline, which is available at the BTRC website, he says: “We didn't see such a guideline in the world.”

Through the VAS guideline, the government wants to create content developers in Bangladesh, but it may not bring expected results, as the government has made it mandatory for such developers to have licences, he says.

"The government should think first what it wants to achieve from the sector."

On the contribution of the telecom sector to the economic development of the country, he says increasing telecom penetration is a factor behind higher GDP (gross domestic product) growth.

"Also the telecom operators are investing directly and indirectly in the country."

Grameenphone's cumulative investment now stands at Tk 17,465 crore since its inception in 1996. The operator has so far paid a total of Tk 25,638 crore to the state coffer, according to a statement of the operator.

Grameenphone has developed countrywide coverage, while the other operators are lagging behind, he says.

The market growth is good in Bangladesh, though the operators have to pay Tk 600 as tax for every SIM (subscriber identity module) along with other costs, Johnsen says, adding that if the SIM tax is waived, the growth will be much faster.

The growth is healthy with more than eight crore subscribers in the mobile industry. A lot of people have two or three SIM cards. So the real penetration is not what is seen, he says. "Still there is room to grow."

On 3G licences, he says auction is the best option to offer such licences. However, he says the floor price of the auction should be rational.

There are only 5-6 percent mobile sets that are 3G enabled. "So it is a slow business for the operators."

"We are not considering 3G before getting the 2G licences," he says, adding that no shareholders will agree to give money for 3G licences since the operators are yet to complete their 2G licence renewal.


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