Ollo BWA Licensing Derailed
The High Court is challenging the decision of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to issue a broadband wireless access (BWA) licence to Ollo. The regulator provisionally issued the licence without recourse to a spectrum auction or demanding the same fees as were paid by two other operators in April 2013. Bangladesh is still in the process of developing its National Telecom Policy and supporting regulatory framework; BMI believes it is inevitable that such violations of due process will occur and highlights the risks to private companies when investing in markets still struggling to transform their regulatory mechanisms.
Bangladesh Internet Exchange Ltd (BIEL, which trades as Ollo) bid for a BWA licence in 2008, alongside Banglalion, Qubee and Mango Teleservices, but backed out after bids reached BDT2.15bn (US$27.5mn). Mango Teleservices also declined to purchase its licence and it seems that it is the investors behind Mango that have launched this appeal. Their argument is that, if the regulator is now willing to accept a lower price for the licences, it too should have been invited to tender or at least consulted.
Ollo approached the regulator with a view to taking up one of the two spare licences after it had been decided that Banglalion and Qubee could build and run mobile broadband networks based on LTE technology, complementing the WiMAX platforms they have already established. LTE is generally considered to be a more appealing mobile broadband technology than WiMAX owing to superior signal latency rates, better mobility coverage and the lower cost of end-user devices. However, Ollo insisted that it would pay no more than the base price for the spectrum.
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