POST TIME: 12 September, 2019 12:11:04 AM
GP, Robi start legal battle with BTRC
Regulator mulls hiring administrator to realise dues
Staff Reporter, Dhaka

GP, Robi start legal battle with BTRC

 Leading mobile phone operators Grameenphone and Robi have filed two separate cases with a Dhaka court, seeking injunctions against the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s (BTRC's) claim of Tk. 13,447 crore.

Grameenphone (GP) lodged the case on August 26, while Robi had done so a day earlier on August 25. The telecom regulator, meanwhile, has thought of appointing an administrator to realise its dues as the two operators have been reluctant to pay.

On September 5, the BTRC served show-cause notices to the country’s two largest telecom operators, giving them 30 days to reply to explain why their licences should not be cancelled for not paying the dues. GP and Robi on September 6 sought more time from the BTRC and asked the telecom regulator to revoke the 30-day deadline.

The operators said for realising dues, there were provisions of filing cases under the Public Demands Recovery (PDR) Act, but the BTRC had not opted for that path. The Independent asked BTRC officials about filing cases against the two telecom operators under the PDR Act, but they declined to comment.

BTRC chairman Jahrul Haq told The Independent that the state’s money would be realised by any means and the telecom operators would not be spared for violating the rules.

Post and telecommunications minister Mostafa Jabbar said: “They will have to pay their dues. We have, however, kept our doors open for discussion. If they still don’t pay, then we will have no option but to take legal measures.”

Both GP CEO Micheal Folly and Robi CEO Mahtab Uddin Ahmed said the government should go for arbitration to realise their dues and fix the brawl between the operators and the regulator due to an audit dispute.

Since the BTRC showed no interest in going for arbitration, the operators had no other options but to go to the court, they added.

“We tried to reach an agreement with the BTRC through discussion and arbitration. But unfortunately, BTRC hasn’t responded to our move and has taken their way to realize money. Therefore, we have got no other option but to go to the court. Since it is a matter of court now, we have got no further comment on the issue,” said Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer of Robi.

GP owes Tk. 12,579.95 crore to the government, including Tk. 4,085.95 crore to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), while Robi owes Tk. 867.23 crore to the government, including Tk. 197.21 crore to the NBR alone, as per BTRC audit records.

Earlier, on July 4 this year, the telecom regulator, in a bid to realise the dues, had directed all the International Internet Gateway (IIG) operators to cut down 30 per cent bandwidth of GP’s total capacity, while for Robi it was 15 per cent. But later, the directive was withdrawn on July 17, considering the inconvenience caused to the subscribers.

 As part of the punitive measures, BTRC also suspended issuing the NOC to the operators for importing equipment to run their network.

BTRC data shows that GP and Robi have 7.48 crore and 4.77 crore active connections respectively. About half of these consumers use the Internet.