Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will no longer be able to import and install dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) equipment for the fiber optic network, leased from National Telecommunication Transmission Networks (NTTNs) or other entities.
The decision was taken at 245th commission meeting in January, which was approved on Sunday, according to a source of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
However, the MNOs can import and install DWDM equipment for their own networks, subject to approval of the regulator on case to case basis.
The meeting also cancelled a decision of the 243rd commission meeting that allowed the MNOs to import and install DWDM equipment.
In fiber optic communications, dense wavelength division multiplexing is a technology which multiplexes a number of optical carrier signals onto a single optical fiber by using different wavelengths of laser light.
The telecommunication and fiber optic communication equipment has recently become an apple of discord between the NTTNs and the MNOs.
The BTRC has not been issuing 'no objection certificate' (NOC) to the MNOs to import the equipment for around two years.
The country's two NTTNs - Summit Communications Limited and [email protected] - went to court separately to get the right of installing DWDM when the BTRC had allowed the MNOs to import and install the equipment in 243rd commission meeting.
"The court issued an order last month, asking the BTRC why the right of installing DWDM will not be given to the NTTNs," said the [email protected] lawyer.
But the BTRC has not replied yet, he told The Financial Express (FE).
The NTTNs are saying that as per the licensing guidelines only they can import and install DWDM equipment.
"The BTRC had issued license to develop, build, operate and maintain optical fiber network all over the country, known as NTTN, that will prevent duplication of network, reduce wastage of national resources, and establish a common and affordable national telecommunication infrastructure for operators," Head of PR and government affairs of [email protected] Abbas Faruque told the FE, quoting their licensing guidelines.
He said DWDM cannot be a matter of the MNOs in general as per the guidelines.
"Then how could the MNOs import and install DWDM until 2019, when the BTRC stopped providing NOC for fresh import of the equipment," he asked.
A BTRC official said the NTTNs got license much later than the time when the MNOs started operation.
"However, the MNOs can still import and install DWDM as well as lay fiber where no NTTN is functioning, as per the license."
But, the telecom operators cannot install DWDM or lay fiber (in a place), if the NTTN operators are already available there, he added.
Chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi Axiata Limited Shahed Alam said if the MNOs cannot install DWDM equipment, they cannot provide quality services to mobile subscribers.
He also said quality of services significantly depends on (use of) the equipment.
"If the equipment is not under the MNOs' authority, we can't ensure quality services," he noted.
An official from the operator said the MNOs install DWDM equipment at their sites for own network requirement and service obligation.
"This clause neither imposes the obligation to the NTTNs to provide equipment to the MNOs or at lessee site, nor restrict the MNOs to install required equipment at their sites," he opined.
Refuting the MNOs' arguments, Mr Faruque said the telcos are licensed to provide 2G, 3G and 4G mobile phone services, domestic and international long-distance voice and video calls, international roaming services, SMS/EMS/VMS/MMS, mobile internet and value added services (VAS), but not to lay fiber or install DWDM.
"The regulator has separate licensee for the purpose," he added.
Grameenphone head of external communications Md Hasan urged the regulator to allow the MNOs to import DWDM equipment for dark fiber to meet the service quality needs of mobile customers.
"We believe that through constructive dialogue we will be able to come to a conclusion, which will take into account the licensing rights of all the operators."
Answering a question on if the MNOs cannot use DWDM, what they will do with their own fiber, Mr Faruque said the solution is given in the infrastructure sharing guidelines.
According to the amended guidelines for infrastructure sharing 2011, the telecom operators may sell or lease their excess capacity/core/fiber of the transmission network to the NTTN operators.
In that case, the NTTNs will be entitled to buy or take lease of the excess capacity from the telcos, Mr Faruque added.
According to the BTRC, Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink have more than 3,000 km of own fiber network.
The MNOs can expand their network through radio frequency and fiber.
The industry experts said the issue of DWDM has recently become significant because of providing 4G and 5G services in future.
These services cannot be expanded without the fiber and equipment, telecom engineers of an operator told the FE.