Bangladesh will move ahead with a long-awaited 4G spectrum auction, with the telecoms regulator planning to hold the sale across three bands by December.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina approved the guidelines for the auction, which was previously planned for June and will be open to the country’s four existing mobile players along with a new participant.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is working to finalise a date for the auction, The Daily Star reported. The regulator set a reserve price of $30 million for each megahertz of spectrum in the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands, and $27 million for each megahertz in the 2.1GHz band.

Winning bidders are required to roll out service to district headquarters within 18 months of receiving a licence and nationwide within three years.

BTRC holds 15MHz of unsold spectrum in the 2.1GHz band, 10.6MHz in the 1.8GHz band and some spectrum in the 900MHz band, which came from Airtel after its merger with Robi.

Mobile operators use the 2.1GHz band for 3G services and the other two bands for 2G services. BTRC approved technology neutrality for all existing spectrum in the country.

The spectrum conversion fee for technology neutrality in the existing 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands will be reduced to $7.5 million per megahertz from $10 million, while the revenue sharing percentage for 4G services will be cut to 5.5 per cent from 15 per cent. The BTRC also slashed both the licensing acquisition fee and the annual licensing fee by 33 per cent to BDT100 billion ($1.2 million) and BDT50 billion respectively.

Market leader Grameenphone holds a combined 22MHz of spectrum across the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands, while Robi has 26.4MHz, Banglalink 15MHz and state-owned Teletalk 15.2MHz.

The country counts 133 million mobile connections. According to BTRC, there are also about 70 million mobile internet users, with 35 million using 3G handsets.