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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Three firms clinch licences to operate WiMax

Three bidders yesterday won as many WiMax licences in a battle of nine and finally settled for a hefty amount of Tk 215 crore in acquisition fees each.

The three bidders -- BanglaLion Communication, BRAC BD Mail Network Ltd and Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Ltd -- won the licences at an auction organised by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) at a city hotel.

"The auction price went beyond our expectation. However in a broader sense, this advanced technology will help meet the high broadband demand of Bangladesh," said Major (retd) Abdul Mannan, one of the partners of BanglaLion.

"I definitely admire BTRC for arranging such a transparent auction," said Mannan who is also the secretary general of Bikalpa Dhara Bangladesh, a political party.

The auction started at 11am with a call of Tk 27.50 crore and ended at 2:15pm.

The BTRC yesterday also distributed 35 MHz spectrums to each winner. On priority basis, BanglaLion chose 2585-2620 MHz bandwidth, while BRAC BDMail and Augere Wireless went for 2330-2365MHz and 2365-2400MHz respectively.

As per the WiMax guidelines, these three companies will have to start operation by March 2009.

The winners will have to pay 50 percent of the amount within next 10 working days. The rest of the amount should be paid within three months from the date of licence awarding notification.

WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is a wireless digital communication system that can provide broadband wireless access across 30 miles for fixed phone, and 3-10 miles for mobile stations.

BTRC hopes with the introduction of 3G, another high-speed internet broadband technology, the country's internet penetration rate will reach 30 percent by 2015, which is only 0.4 percent now.

Some Hong Kong- and UK-based companies have stakes in the companies that won the WiMax licences yesterday.

As per the WiMax guidelines, bid winners can form joint venture with foreign firms but their share should not exceed 60 percent, and non-resident Bangladeshis are allowed to invest at 70 percent ownership.

The licensees will develop and operate a broadband network to provide nationwide service. At least 128 kbps download rate with upload download ratio of 1:4 per subscriber should be ensured at all time.

The operators should have the capability to provide domestic roaming service within their own networks. They must provide inter-operator roaming service when such technology is available and directed by BTRC.

The licensees will have to go for initial public offering (IPO) within three years of licence issuance, and shall not be allowed to transfer any shares before issuance of the IPO.

"The introduction of WiMax will brand Bangladesh as a developed ICT nation," said Maj Gen (retd) Manzurul Alam, BTRC chairman.

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