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Row over dues

BTRC moves to scrap licences of GP, Robi

Ismail Hossain | August 29, 2019 00:00:00

The telecom regulator has started the process of scrapping the licences of the country's two biggest telecom operators -- Grameenphone and Robi, allegedly, for not paying dues to the national exchequer.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will serve showcause notices on the two operators to explain as to why their licences would not be revoked, an official said.

The operators may be given 30 days to respond to the notices, the BTRC official said.

The BTRC has already received the formal approval from ministry of post and telecommunications in this connection, BTRC sources said.

The punitive action is the third step after limiting bandwidth and withholding issuance of No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for the two telecom giants.

The show cause notices will be served to the operators once the BTRC chairman returns home from abroad. He is now visiting Bhutan.

Senior assistant director of the BTRC Zakir Hossain Khan said it is a "reasonable step" as the BTRC chairman had earlier said the regulator would go tough on realising audit claim dues.

"The operators are not paying their dues despite a number of steps and reminders, now the regulator will do what they should do," he said.

He also said their legal wing is now checking details of the steps as it is a serious matter.

As per a BTRC audit claim, GP has Tk 125.79 billion in dues to the government, including Tk 40.85 billion to the National Board of Revenue.

Robi owes Tk 86.72 billion to the government, including Tk 19.72 billion to the revenue board.

Earlier at a meeting on May 22, the BTRC had decided to adopt eight steps against the telecom operators, including stopping issuance of No Objection Certificate, stopping MNP portability, limited new subscribers, stopping bandwidth from International Internet Gateway, limiting or stopping calls, stopping 4G and 3G services in certain areas of the country.

However, terming the audit claims disputed, both operators had been urging the BTRC to settle the issue through arbitration.

But BTRC says there is no scope for arbitration as the existing law does not allow it.

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