Bangladesh holds auction to open 3G services

Reuters

DHAKA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Bangladesh sold third generationmobile phone spectrum to four of the country's mobile telephoneoperators for a total of $525 million at a much-awaited auctionon Sunday, the telecoms regulator said.

Top operator Grameenphone, which is majority owned byNorway's Telenor, won the auction to acquire 10megahertz of spectrum for $210 million.

Egyptian Orascom Telecom's Banglalink, Robi, ajoint venture between Malaysia's Axiata Group andJapan's NTT DoCoMo, and Airtel, majority owned byIndia's Bharti Airtel, won bids for 5 megahertz ofspectrum each at a price of $105 million.

The upgrade to a faster 3G network was needed to widenInternet access in Bangladesh, one of the world'sfastest-growing telecoms markets, said Sunil Kanti Bose,chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication RegulatoryCommission.

The operators have to pay 60 percent of the total price ofspectrum as the first instalment within a month and the balancewithin the next three months, he said.

State-owned mobile operator Teletalk last year launched the3G service on a test basis. Teletalk will have to pay $210million for 10 megahertz.

Another operator, Citycell, a joint venture between PacificBangladesh Telecom Limited and Singapore Telecommunications, was out of the auction after failing to deposit the$20 million earnest money.

The country's six mobile phone operators have a total of 107million users while internet services lag far behind with nearly40,000 subscribers. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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