Bangladesh to shut its oldest mobile operator Citycell

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Bangladesh government starts the process for shutting down its oldest mobile phone operator Citycell tomorrow over the company’s failure to pay dues around Tk 477.51 crore.

The phone company owes to the government Tk477.51 crore as spectrum and licence renewal fees and other charges.

The country’s State Minister for Telecommunication, Tarana Halim on Tuesday said that the telecom regulatory authorities took the decision after Citycell had defaulted on its dues with the government despite several remainders.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) also extended the deadline for its subscribers to switch any other operators to August 23 from August 16 (today).

“Considering the sufferings of its subscribers, the government has extended the previous deadline,” Ms Halim said at a press conference at her ministry office in Dhaka.

On July 31, BTRC issued a public notice and asked Citycell’s subscribers to switch to other operators by August 16. Earlier in April, the regulatory body filed a case against the operator under the Public Demand Recovery Act to realise the dues.

The dues include spectrum renewal fees at Tk 229 crore, annual licence fees of Tk 10 crore, annual spectrum fee of Tk 27.14 crore, VAT of Tk 39.92 crore and late fee of Tk 135 crore, according to BTRC notice published in the local media.

Meanwhile, on August 1, Citycell authorities lettered to the BTRC seeking time until December 31 to clear its outstanding charges.

Citycell began its operations in 1993 though its parent company Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited got licence for telecom services in 1989.

The operator reached 19 lakh customers in 2011. But it had around 7.02 lakh active customers until June this year, according to BTRC. It is the only CDMA network operator in Bangladesh.

Singapore’s SingTel owns 44.54 percent shares in Citycell, Pacific Motors 37.95 percent and the Far East Telecom 17.51 percent.

London-based BMI Research in a report on August 2 said Citycell’s stakeholders, including SingTel, have been trying to sell the company but are yet to find buyers.

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