Telcos puzzled by regulator’s new letter

Licence Renewal Fees
Telcos puzzled by regulator’s new letter
Four mobile telephone operators are confused over a letter from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission that asked them to pay a due amount and late fees for licence renewal.
The BTRC on Wednesday asked Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Citycell to deposit a combined amount of Tk 857.46 crore within 10 days to renew their licences.
The BTRC sent the letter when two cases regarding licence renewal fees are pending with a court.
The deadline to renew the licences was November 10, 2011, but the operators went to the court due to disputes.
The BTRC letter also asked the operators to pay an additional 15 percent interest on the renewal charges. Also, the 15 percent Value Added Tax deducted at source since 2010 and paid to the National Board of Revenue must be returned to the BTRC by the operators, the letter said.
Officials of the mobile operators said the confusion arises as the cases filed by two operators, Banglalink and Robi, are still pending with a court.
Even though the High Court delivered a verdict Monday last on the issue of Grameenphone, one of the four operators, its officials are yet to get the certified copy of the verdict.
The four mobile operators, Grameenphone, Banglalink, Robi and Citycell, will seek clarification from the regulator, the officials said.
BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed said the operators will sit with him tomorrow (Sunday).
He, however, said, “We have sent them the letter after consulting with lawyers.”
Officials of the operators said even though two cases are pending with the court, the BTRC has issued the letter demanding renewal charges. The officials said they do not have the certified copy of the High Court judgement on Grameenphone. So it is not possible to know what the court said in its verdict, they laimed.
Mehboob Chowdhury, chief executive officer of Citycell, said, “We have received a letter from the BTRC that has confused us. We can’t understand the content of the letter. We will seek clarification from the regulator.”
Citycell is the only operator that did not go to court on licence renewal dispute. But it will have to pay more than Tk 8 crore in late fees, said its officials.
Kazi Monirul Kabir, chief communications officer of Grameenphone, said they did not get the certified copy of the judgement. He said they have an option to go to the higher court in 30 days, but the regulator did not give them enough time to do that.
Officials of Banglalink and Robi claimed that if they deposit licence renewal fee to the regulator, they would face contempt of court charges as their cases are still in the court.
Mahmudur Rahman, executive vice-president of Robi, said, “We are looking into the letter and will respond to the regulator. We will pay any amount we owe the government as per law.”
Another official of Robi said the High Court delivered the verdict on licence fee but did not say anything about the 5.5 percent revenue sharing amount. But the BTRC has asked the operators to pay the previous revenue sharing amount with late fee from 2010 which has already been deposited to the National Board of Revenue, he said.
The court did not say anything about the fine or late fees but the regulator has imposed the charges, the official said.
A Banglalink official said the Grameenphone’s verdict is not applicable to them.
BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed said as the operators did not pay 15 percent Value Added Tax deducted at source to the regulator since 2010, they will have to pay the amount now. “It’s not a matter of court’s verdict, it’s a due,” he said.

-With The Daily Star input

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