Bangladesh’s telecoms regulator, after intervention by the Prime Minister’s ICT adviser, agreed to set up a special committee to examine tax claims, its latest move to resolve a long-running dispute with the country’s two largest mobile operators.

Following a meeting with Grameenphone and Robi Axiata, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) also said it would lift show-cause notices issued in early September, requiring operators to explain why they should keep their licences despite failing to make payments. This is due to happen after they make yet-to-be-determined deposits, which are being negotiated.

Sources told Mobile World Live (MWL) all parties also may sign an MOU.

The committee will comprise representatives from the operators, BTRC, National Board of Revenue (NBR), Telecom Ministry and Finance Ministry. It has a target of releasing a report within three months.

Following an audit started in 2017 of the companies’ finances dating back to 1996, the BTRC claims the operators owe a combined BDT135 billion ($1.6 billion): BDT126 billion for Grameenphone and BDT8.67 billion for Robi Axiata.

Both sought injunctions against orders to collect the fees.

This week, GSMA director general Mats Granryd urged ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Ahmed Wazeb to press the government to “seek to ensure BTRC is able to reconsider its stance on this matter”, after the government detailed plans to appoint administrators at both operators to recover the unpaid taxes.

The parties appeared to be moving towards a settlement last month, but it seems operators were unable to halt legal action, which was a condition of any resolution.

Grameenphone stated it continued to engage with authorities to reach a transparent and amicable resolution.