A Bangladesh government plan to impose higher 4G licensing fees leading up to the next spectrum auction will make it more challenging for the country’s mobile operators, already burdened with some of the highest taxes in the world, to roll out new services.
The decision would impose a significant burden in meeting the “Digital Bangladesh” objectives and impact the future of mobile broadband services in the country, the GSMA said in a press statement.
With the country’s mobile operators already paying multiple taxes and fees, which have slowed growth, the GSMA argues there is a need to lower the burden of levies to assist in the deployment of more affordable voice and data services. In 2015 alone the mobile industry contributed 6.2 per cent to Bangladesh’s GDP.
“New research links high spectrum prices with lower quality mobile services. In short, mobile operators have less capital left for new networks and services,” said Brett Tarnutzer, GSMA’s head of spectrum: “Reasonable spectrum fees are key to achieving the Digital Bangladesh objectives. Operators should be able to use their resources to build networks for high quality mobile services.”
Tarnutzer said the proposal to impose incremental fees on top of the already high fees risks deterring operators from acquiring much needed spectrum.
He pointed to India, Ghana, Mozambique and Senegal as examples of countries where 4G spectrum went unsold: “This would be extremely damaging not only for the Bangladesh mobile industry, but also for the country’s economy overall, depriving citizens and businesses to the full potential of high quality mobile broadband services.”
In its statement, the GSMA noted operators in Bangladesh have already invested heavily in infrastructure and technology services, and urged the government to reconsider the 4G spectrum licensing price proposal to reflect local market realities and government goals.