Five mobile operators in Bangladesh applied for LTE licences, with the four private companies – Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi Axiata and Citycell – planning to participate in a 4G spectrum auction scheduled for 13 February.

State-owned Teletalk, which holds 25MHz of spectrum across three bands, did not apply for new spectrum, but still put its name in the hat for a licence. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Shahjahan Mahmood speculated the operator considers its existing spectrum sufficient to offer 4G services, The Daily Star reported.

Regardless of its motive, the operator is ineligible to bid in the auction until it pays BDT20 billion ($241 million) it owes Bangladesh’s government. The operator accumulated the debt for not paying the telecoms regulator a revenue-sharing fee for its 3G services or contributing to a social obligation fund.

Reports last week said the government is trying to find a way to make Teletalk eligible for the auction. The operator, one of Bangladesh’s smallest, and Robi Axiata recently agreed to share mobile network sites across the country to enable them to prepare for the launch of 4G.

Citycell, which suspended operations in October 2016 after its licence was cancelled due to unpaid fees, will apply for a 4G licence and spectrum to allow it to relaunch services after lining up a new overseas investor, The Daily Star said.

Bangladesh’s long-awaited 4G spectrum auction will sell 25MHz of spectrum in the 2.1GHz band, 18MHz in the 1.8GHz band and 3.4MHz in the 900MHz band, which came from Airtel after its merger with Robi Axiata.

The licence acquisition fee is set at BDT100 million and an annual fee is BDT50 million for the 15-year term.

Winning bidders have 30 days to pay the fees and are required to roll out service to all the divisional headquarters within nine months of receiving the licence, district headquarters within 18 months and nationwide within three years.