The shutdown process of Bangladesh’s first mobile phone operator “Citycell” has been started for non-payment of dues of Taka 477.51 crore, BSS reports. But, the subscribers of the operator has been given another seven days to switch to alternative network by August 23, said state minister for posts and telecommunication Tarana Halim at a media briefing this afternoon at her secretariat office.
“Posts and Telecommunications Division (PTD) will forward the file to the government tomorrow for cancelling the license and spectrum allocation of Citycell,” she added. Tarana after emerging from the meeting with the officials of the ministry and telecom regulator told the newsmen that “subscribers will get another seven days” for securing alternative option, as today was the last date set by the telecom regulator for the switchover.
Earlier, on July 31, the regulator–Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC)– served notice to Citycell to explain why it should not face legal action for not paying the outstanding dues of Taka 477.51 crore since long. At the same time, the regulator also asked the subscribers of Citycell to manage alternative connection by August 16, as BTRC has decided to cancel the license and spectrum allocation of the operator.
Citycell which has been offering service using Code division multiple accesses (CDMA) has now 1.50 lakh to two lakh subscriber after completion of ownership verification through biometric method. According to BTRC, the Citycell didn’t pay the second and third installments, in combine Taka 229 crore, for 8.82 megahertz spectrum since spectrum renewal in 2012, which has breached the licensing terms.
Besides, it has owed of annual spectrum fees (from the year 2013 to 2016) Taka 27.14 crore, revenue sharing (2014 to 2016) Taka 27.84 crore, social obligatory fund (2011 to 2016) Taka 8.92 crore, VAT Taka 39.92 crore and late fee of Taka 135 crore.
Replying to a query, Posts and Telecommunications Secretary Faizur Rahman Chowdhury said: “We’ve taken the final decision of shutting down following all the procedures after not getting response from the operator since long.” About the recovery of the unpaid money, Chowdhury said, they would move for “legal action” after the final decision of the government.
Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited under the brand name “Citycell” obtained license in 1989 where SingTel Asia Pacific Investment Limited has 45 percent share as Far East Telecom Limited owns 23.57 percent share and remaining 31.43 percent share hold by Pacific Motor Limited.
Making comments on the possible impact to the sector for the shutdown, the state minister said: “We want to set instance that no one is beyond law,” adding “every operator has to run business as per the law.” Tarana, however, is reluctant to make any comments about the fate of Citycell’s employees terming it as the operator’s internal issue.