Operators in Bangladesh spent $898.2 million to secure spectrum in the 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands to expand their limited 4G holdings as demand for data services soars.

The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BRTC) auctioned four 5MHz blocks in the 2100MHz band and 7.4MHz of 1800MHz spectrum.

Data from BRTC shown to Mobile World Live (MWL) revealed Grameenphone spent $391.8 million on 10MHz of 2100MHz and 0.4MHz of 1800MHz airwaves, bringing its total holdings to 47.4MHz, 20MHz of which is in the 2100MHz band.

Robi Axiata acquired 5MHz of 2100MHz and 2.6MHz of 1800MHz band for $225.6 million, while Banglalink bought 5MHz of 2100MHz and 4.4MHz of 1800MHz for $281.4 million: they each now have 15MHz of 2100MHz spectrum.

All three increased their individual holdings in the 1800MHz band to 20MHz.

In a statement to Grameenphone acting CEO and CFO Jens Becker told MWL the additional spectrum leaves it “well-positioned to further contribute to the digitalisation of Bangladesh and meet people’s growing need for high-speed internet in rural as well as urban areas”.

He added it will continue enhancing 4G quality of service by focusing on widespread coverage.

The spectrum licences have 15-year terms, with operators required to pay 25 per cent by 23 March and the remainder in instalments over five years.

In April 2020, the operators called on BTRC to release additional 2100MHz spectrum as they experienced a surged in data usage during a Covid-19 (coronavirus) lockdown.

The country held its first 4G spectrum auction in early 2018.

GSMA Intelligence data showed 4G connections increased 70 per cent year-on-year to 27 million in 2020, with penetration up from 9.7 per cent in 2019 to 16 per cent.