Bangladesh regulator hits Grameenphone with SIM ban

Bangladesh regulator hits Grameenphone with SIM ban

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has told leading operator Grameenphone that it must stop selling new SIMs in the latest escalation of an ongoing dispute over quality of service.

According to Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar, Grameenphone has repeatedly been asked to improve its quality of service but has not done so. In response BTRC has imposed an indefinite suspension on the sales of new Grameenphone SIMs. Grameenphone’s share price dropped 2% after the news broke.

Grameenphone is not the only operator that has been targeted by BTRC recently. According to local news resource The Business Standard, after a quality of service drive test late last year, BTRC found that all the country’s mobile operators, except Banglalink, were providing lower 4G speeds than the local benchmark of 7Mbps.

This isn’t the first time BTRC and Grameenphone have been at odds. As we reported at the time, in June last year Grameenphone was hit by a number of restrictions by Bangladesh’s regulator as it sought to weaken the operator’s perceived market dominance. In 2019, meanwhile, it was hit with an injunction relating to alleged unpaid taxes and dues.

However, Grameenphone is still profitable, albeit it has reported that its net profit in the first quarter of 2022 suffered due to an increase in modernisation costs and currency devaluation.

And it’s still the country's dominant operator. Grameenphone said in a recent press release that in the first three months of this year, the company acquired 0.5 million new subscribers, reaching 83.7 million total subscribers. This puts it well ahead of second-placed Robi Axiata, which ended 2021 with 53.7 million active subscribers. The country’s population is around 163 million.

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