Three mobile operators of the country bought new spectrums for Tk7,634 crore at an auction on Monday.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) sold 27.4 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum – from 1,800MHz and 2,100MHz bands – to Grameenphone, Banglalink and Robi.
The operators can use the spectrums for 15 years.
Earlier in 2018, the government earned around Tk3,940 crore by selling 16.6MHz of the spectrum to Banglalink and Grameenphone.
Apart from enriching the government exchequer, the new frequency allocation will help improve mobile phone services to some extent, as the user occupancy in Bangladesh in the per-megahertz spectrum will now drop by 2 lakh.
Currently, user occupancy against per MHz spectrum in Bangladesh is more than 13 lakh, which is only 2-3 lakh in Nepal and Myanmar.
The BTRC started the auction process on 7.4MHz spectrum from the 1,800MHz band and 20MHz from the 2,100MHz band.
The base price was set at $27 million for each MHz of spectrum in the 2,100 band, and $31 million per MHz in the 1,800 band.
The 7.4 MHz spectrum from the 1,800 band was divided into five blocks, while 20 MHz from the 2,100 band was divided into four blocks.
Three operators participated in the 1,800 band auction, while state-owned Teletalk skipped it.
As the price was not increased in the bidding round, the auctioned spectrum in this band was sold at the base price.
Among the three private operators, Banglalink, the country's third largest mobile operator, procured 4.4MHz spectrum while the second largest operator Robi Axiata procured 2.6MHz and market leader Grameenphone procured only 0.4MHz in the 1,800 band.
Robi loses to GP
All the mobile operators participated in the bidding on the blocks of the 2,100 band.
In the first block of the band, the price was increased from $27 million per megahertz to $29 million. Each of the three private mobile network operators procured 5MHz spectrum in this band.
Teletalk participated in the bidding but withdrew its candidacy once the price started to go up.
However, the auction on the remaining 5MHz of the 2,100 band saw a tight competition. The bidding on this spectrum started before 1pm and continued till 8:30pm.
All the operators participated in the bidding of this block. An exciting competition was happening with three operators even after Banglalink's withdrawal.
Teletalk appeared to be interested in procuring this block as it was bidding eagerly. However, it could not hold its spirit and withdrew it from the bidding.
After Teletalk's leave, a hard competition was seen between Grameenphone and Robi. Both the operators bid 81 times, chasing each other.
Finally, Robi surrendered to Grameenphone at 8:30 pm when the price went up to $46.75 million per megahertz – $19.75 million higher than the floor price.
GP procures highest size of spectrum
Among the four operators in the country, Grameenphone procured 10.4MHz spectrum from two bands on Monday, while Banglalink purchased 9.4MHz and Robi bought only 7.6MHz.
With this, Grameenphone now will have 47.4MHz of spectrum, Robi 44MHz, Banglalink 40MHz, and Teletalk 25.2MHz in three different bands.
According to the BTRC, Grameenphone still has the lowest spectrum coverage for its users. Over 17 lakh Grameenphone subscribers are currently occupying each MHz of spectrum.
Robi serves 11 lakh subscribers with the same frequency, while Banglalink has 9 lakh users in each MHz of spectrum.