POST TIME: 28 February, 2020 09:54:33 AM
BTRC clears the way for tower sharing cos to start operation

BTRC clears the way for tower sharing cos to start operation

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has finalised a service-level agreement (SLA) that will enable companies awarded tower-sharing licences to begin operations. Brig Gen Md Shahidul Alam, director general (spectrum management) of BTRC, said, “The problem regarding the SLA has been resolved. BTRC has finalised the SLA and we hope that mobile phone operators and tower-sharing companies will start working together within March.”  

In letters last year, tower-sharing companies had informed the BTRC that the SLA could not be prepared in time due to a disagreement between mobile phone operators and the companies being awarded tower-sharing licences. They explained that operations could not be started in time as a result of the stalemate.

In Bangladesh, edotco is the lone entity running tower-sharing operations. This results in a lack of competition, according to industry insiders.    

In 2018, the BTRC awarded licences to four companies—edotco Bangladesh, Summit Towers Limited, Kirtonkhola Tower Bangladesh Ltd, and HighTech Consortium Ltd. Currently, only edotco is doing business in the market with a no objection certificate (NOC).

The licence makes the companies responsible for building, maintaining, and renting out towers to mobile operators, internet service providers, and WiMAX operators.

Companies that have been awarded tower-sharing licences are supposed to start building towers within six months of getting these licences. None of them, however, is doing so now because they are not ready to do so.

Three companies—Summit Towers Limited, Kirtonkhola Tower Bangladesh Ltd, and HighTech Consortium Ltd—were awarded licences for setting up tower-sharing businesses, but they are yet to begin operations. After failing to commence business activities, the three companies have sought a fee waiver.

The BTRC has agreed to provide a 5.5 per cent waiver on the three companies’ annual fees and revenue sharing, as well as a 1 per cent waiver on their social welfare fund contribution. The decision will be sent to the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology for approval.

As per the meeting minutes, changes in the guidelines will be required. The regulations and licensing guidelines for issuing licences for tower-sharing in Bangladesh need to be amended in Annual License Fee and Gross Revenue Sharing Issue Clauses 19.5, 19.05 (a, b) and Rollout Obligation Period Issue Clause 17.1.

According to Clause 14.03 of the Regulatory and Licensing Guidelines for Issuing Licence for Tower Sharing in Bangladesh, “The licensee and the operators shall come across with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Tower Sharing. The licensee shall submit the draft SLA to the Commission for necessary vetting.”

On April 1, 2018, the BTRC published the tower-sharing licensing guidelines.

On November 1 the same year, the commission issued tower-sharing licences in favour of the four establishments.

To ensure proper services, mobile phone operators need new cell phone towers and upgrade of old towers, industry insiders say.

The operators, however, said they were unable to do that themselves since the BTRC introduced the tower licensing system, under which third parties were in charge of cell towers and carriers rented towers from them.