Roundtable puts telecoms in focus

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Business

Speakers at a roundtable have urged the government to reconsider the amount of license renewal fee for the telecom operators under new guidelines so that they can invest in building high-speed cellular data network infrastructure.

The discussion on ‘implementing the vision of digital Bangladesh: role of telecoms and ICT industry’ was organised by Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI) in Dhaka yesterday.

Hasanul Haq Inu, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on post and telecoms ministry, chaired the roundtable, while Farooq Sobhan, president of BEI, was the moderator.

The discussion aimed to accumulate the feedback of all stakeholders of the telecom and ICT industry about the present condition and growth of the sectors.

Speakers said with a supportive regulatory framework, crossing 100 million mobile phone subscribers by 2013 is achievable and the rapid growth has a transformative impact on the economy in terms of aggregate investment, foreign direct investment and productivity.

The stakeholders pointed out few solutions to improve the framework in the discussion. They were — revision of financial conditions of the mobile phone operators, ensuring level-playing field, excluding conditions beyond scope of the licensee, incorporating international best practices in the framework, and formulate a predictable long-term policy for the sector.

They also said the recent amendments to the telecom law could increase the risks of arbitrary regulatory interventions as well.

According to new license renewal guidelines, the four operators, Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Citycell, will have to pay a combined Tk 28,000 crore in frequency charge during license renewal for 15 years based on their revenue earnings.

Underscoring the necessity to provide proper incentives to both sectors, Inu said: “When more people come under the telecommunication service it will create a positive impact on economy. We would review the new regulation for the license renewal policy and existing tax structure to make the telecom and IT services affordable to all.”

Inu said a lot of effort has already been put into developing digital Bangaldesh, but people are unaware of the situation because of irregular developments and lack of information.

The government has identified ICT as one of the thrust sectors for rapid economic development, unemployment and poverty alleviation, said the chief of the JS body.

The speakers stressed the need for public and private partnership in service delivery across the areas of e-education, e-health and e-governance.

Other Key discussants at the roundtable were Zia Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, and Sunil Kanti Bose, telecoms secretary.

Business leaders, stakeholders of both ICT and telecoms sectors, experts, economists, policymakers, journalists, corporate executives, and representatives of donors, NGOs and civil society attended the four-hour discussion.

09 February, 2011