License Renewal of Mobile Phone Services: What a Country Should Not Do (A Case Study of Bangladesh)
14 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2012 Last revised: 17 Aug 2012
Date Written: March 31, 2012
This paper identifies the major challenges behind the poor performance of the telecommunications licensing regime in Bangladesh. Moreover it explores the negative consequences this emerging economy has to endure in both short and long term future, primarily due to the uncertainties created by the incumbent regulator in mobile phone service renewal process. Mobile telephony is considered to be one of the key enablers for the present Bangladeshi government’s vision of a connected and equitable society. In reality, the uncertain, non-transparent, and arbitrary nature of the license renewal process for 2G mobile services has severely hindered any significant market growth. According to the telecom experts, service authorization and continuation of any communication services need to be consistent with the competitive market environment to ensure maximum benefit for the population the providers cater to. Telecom license assignment and renewal process need to encourage long term investment and minimize the risk of service disruption for the general populace. The situation becomes even more critical when the regulators are required to consider the imminent transition from older to newer services (e.g. , 2G to 3G transition). This paper’s comparative analysis of Bangladesh’s license renewal scenario with the best practices worldwide has helped to show the main bottlenecks of this country’s telecom regulatory process. In person interviews have been conducted with the primary stakeholders to further explore the impacts of poor and uncertain renewal regulations on communication infrastructure, service innovation, and financial investments. Our research have identified high risk of having a stagnated service industry, low foreign investments, and stalled environment for technological innovation as some of the main consequences due to the absence of a responsible regulatory framework for license assignment and renewal. In order to address the challenges identified, the paper has proposed a set of recommendations which can help the Bangladeshi regulator in not repeating the same mistakes again in coming years, and can be used as a learning experience for countries facing similar challenges. Transparent license process, long term and predictable licensing regulations, technology neutrality, provision for secondary spectrum markets, and spectrum refarming are some of the major ways identified by this research, which should help Bangladesh to overcome its present regulatory challenges and establish a stable, pro-competition, and people friendly communication licensing environment.
Keywords: Authorization and Licensing, Regulation, Transparency, Spectrum, Policy, Competition
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