Bangladesh holds auction to open 3G services

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

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

Egyptian Orascom Telecom's Banglalink, Robi, a joint venture between Malaysia's Axiata Group and Japan's NTT DoCoMo, and Airtel, majority owned by India's Bharti Airtel, won bids for 5 megahertz of spectrum each at a price of $105 million.

The upgrade to a faster 3G network was needed to widen Internet access in Bangladesh, one of the world's fastest-growing telecoms markets, said Sunil Kanti Bose, chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission.

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

State-owned mobile operator Teletalk last year launched the 3G service on a test basis. Teletalk will have to pay $210 million for 10 megahertz.

Another operator, Citycell, a joint venture between Pacific Bangladesh 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 107 million users while internet services lag far behind with nearly 40,000 subscribers. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)