BTRC places new SMP curbs to rein in powers of Grameenphone

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has clamped an additional set of restrictions on Grameenphone in an effort to further curtail the dominance of the country's top telecom carrier.

The new rule was announced after Grameenphone challenged in court the regulator's decision to declare it a Significant Market Power, or SMP, citing competition policy.

Grameenphone, however, said on Tuesday that it intends to withdraw the writ petition in the High Court and work on resolving the matter through 'constructive' and 'meaningful' dialogue with BTRC.

The latest curbs will shrink Grameenphone's slice of earnings as a terminating operator, or the network at the receiving end of a call, effective from July 16.

The condition stipulates that Grameenphone, as an SMP, will get 7 paisa per minute from the original operator when a customer on its network receives a voice call.

As a general rule, the terminating operator gets 10 paisa per minute from the originating operator. But under the new rule, other operators such as Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk will pay 3 paisa less to Grameenphone when a voice call is made from their networks.

The non-SMP operators will then deposit the 3 paisa to separate accounts held at local banks with the BTRC regulating its expenditure. The money cannot be spent or transferred without the approval of the regulator.

This is the third condition set by BTRC after it declared Grameenphone an SMP in February 2019,

At the time, it  slapped some restrictions on the company, including its advertisement campaigns.

A year later, on Jun 21, it announced two new rules to clip Grameenphone’s wings, and protect consumer interest by 'preventing a monopoly' in the telecom sector.

GP is the largest mobile telecom operator in Bangladesh in terms of subscriber base.

The first rule stipulates that the lock-in period for mobile number portability, or MNP, will be 60 days instead of 90 days.

BTRC has made the rule effective from Jul 1, allowing customers to leave the Grameenphone network for another carrier sooner than before.

The other rule states that as the SMP operator, Grameenphone will not be able to initiate any new service, package or offer without the approval of BTRC. This rule also takes effect from Jul 1.

Grameenphone, however, contended that the new guidelines go against the competitive environment in the market and the interests of consumers.

It subsequently filed a writ petition in the High Court on Jun 28, seeking a stay on the BTRC's restrictions which are set to take effect on July 1.

But in a statement on Tuesday, the telecom carrier said that it has taken steps to implement the two SMP impositions 'under protest'.

"The Bangladesh mobile telecom market is competitive and Grameenphone has grown through timely investments, innovations and operational efficiency. International SMP best practices prescribe that remedies should only be introduced after conducting a proper analysis to ascertain that market failures exist."

"However, the company remains hopeful that the prevailing gap in understanding between GP and BTRC can be resolved through constructive and meaningful dialogue. As a part of this process Grameenphone intends to withdraw the writ petition that was filed on June 28, 2020," it added.