The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has initiated a scrutiny of a fresh plea made by leading mobile phone operator Grameenphone seeking new number series with 013 prefix as the connections under its existing number series with 017 prefix is almost ‘sold out’.
The telecom regulator started the process as it refrained from issuing a new number series to GP last year.
The commission initially in August, 2016 decided to assign ‘013’ number series after the GP had applied for the series. The decision, however, was scrapped in January, 2017 but the BTRC allowed the telecom operators including GP to resell their connections which remained unused for more than 15 months.
Mobile phone operators are now allowed to resell a SIM card cancelling previous ownership if the number remains unused or inactive for more than 480 days by giving one month notice to its owner.
The number series of country’s mobile phone operators starts with ‘01’ prefix as per the National Number Plan. Each number series allows an operator to sell 10 crore connections with an 11-digit number.
A GP offical said that GP achieved around 8.9 crore biometrically-registered subscriber base recently. Of them, 7 crore are active and 1.9 crore inactive subscribers.Of the inactive subscribers, 50 lakh conncetions are eligible for reselling and the rest 1.4 crore are ineligible for reselling, he said. Of the 10 crore connecti locked for having MFS account, system number, floating number, and for different allert services provided by banks and other services, he said.‘That’s why the 1.1 crore number can not be used, indicating that GP has become very much exhausted with the existing number prefix 017,’ the GP offical said. Asked about the GP’s latest plea, acting BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque said that the commission was yet to give approval in this regard.‘We will have to study before taking any final decision,’ he said. ‘Our study would focus on how much spectrum GP has and whether the spectrum along with other capacities of the operator is sufficient enough to get new subscribers or not,’ Jahurul said.
A GP statement sent to New Age on Monday said, ‘We have almost exhausted our number series. We are now waiting for the regulator’s earliest approval for new number for us to continue selling our SIMs.’
Of the country’s total 15.094 crore active mobile phone subscribers, GP held 6.917 crore subscribers, representing 45.83 per cent of the market share of the country’s mobile phone industry, the latest BTRC data showed. Active subscribers of Robi Axiata stood at 4.47 crore, Banglalink Digital Communications at 3.33 crore and Teletalk Bangladesh at 37.64 lakh at the end of June this year, representing 29.63 per cent, 22.06 per cent and 2.49 per cent market share respectively. In January, 2017, the number of GP’s active subscribers was 5.87 crore, whereas the number of the country’s total active mobile phone subscribers was 12.83 crore. When the GP’s plea for new number series was cancelled in last year, the then BTRC chairman, Shahjahan Mahmood, had told New Age that the there was no urgency to allocate one more new number series right now.The regulator would consider the issue when the total number of SIMs would reach around 20 crore, he said. Grameenphone applied to the telecom regulator seeking the new number series for the first time in January 25, 2015.