"The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission was established on 30 January 2002, under the auspices of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act of 2001, to take over the regulatory functions from MoPT.... The telecom law provided for the creation of an efficient Spectrum Management Committee... However, BTRC ended up forming a gigantic 21-member committee with eight members from the army, navy, air force, police, para-militia and civil and military intelligence... The unnecessarily large committee has not been conducive to the spectrum management mechanism. On the one hand, this BTRC committee has not been able to allocate spectrum for licenses issued by the BTRC itself, and on the other, it has not been able to encourage smart wireless solutions that are increasingly and critically important for providing access to rural underserved areas... The need for an explicit spectrum policy is becoming acute..." ---from "Regulation and Investment: Case Study of Bangladesh" by Harsha de Silva and Abu Saeed Khan in Stimulating Investment in Network Development: Roles for Regulators, World Dialogue on Regulation for Network Economies, 2005.
Because of BTRC's difficulties, the World Bank contracted with British consultancy InterConnect Communications (ICC) to create a spectrum management scheme for Bangladesh. "We understand that BTRC will complete its spectrum policy taking into account the policy that we have proposed and then present this to the Spectrum Management Committee for ratification," ICC says in their Final Report unveiled on 22 June 2005 in Dhaka. (We thank AHM Bazlur Rahman for sending it to us, along with the draft Frequency Allocation Plan.)
ICC's Report notes an odd feature of the current "non-plan": some low-power devices and their users are license exempt, but government secrecy about frequency allocations means that unlicensed use is not limited to specific bands:
"...some users are exempt from the need of a licence (and hence payment) altogether. Totally exempt categories comprise a number of types of equipment (such as walkie-talkies with an output power of less than 50mW) but the bands in which such equipment is permitted unlicensed operation [are] not publicly stated... The fact that the licence exempt uses do not specify a frequency band opens the system to significant abuse and the potential for wide scale interference to licensed services. One could, for example, under the current scheme, use a walkie-talkie with an output power of less than 50mW on any frequency, including in the middle of the broadcast band or a frequency band used by the defence forces..."
In addition, the Report notes the existence of "semi-exempt licences" - exemption being from the licence fees rather than from the licensing itself:
"The current BTRC licensing scheme provides varying degrees of licence cost exemption for different users. In doing so, it also confuses the licensing situation sufficiently to allow for the possibility [of some users who are exempt from fees being treated as exempt from licensing. Additionally,] some categories of radio users that fall within the semi-exempt categories are unaware that they require a licence and may not have actually applied. With no monitoring facilities, BTRC is unlikely to identify and thus challenge such unlicensed usage... [L]icence charges are generally large across the board and may serve to discourage users from applying for licences thereby increasing the amount of unlicensed usage..."
In an effort to harmonise Bangladesh's spectrum management practices with the rest of the world, ICC propose to make the national allocations table public, to allocate specific bands for licence exempt use - the ISM bands, including 2.4 GHz, for example - and to create a system for equipment "type approval." There has been no type approval system for equipment, apparently.
"Licencing Procedure Regulations, 2004" (BTRC Regulation No. 1 of 2004): "...[8.] (8) When the use of any radio equipment or any apparatus causing radio interference or radio frequency is necessary for carrying on the activities allowed under the licence, the licencee shall obtain separate licence or permit incorporating the allocation of frequency..." (Does that mean a frequency license is not needed when the activity does not require a service license?)
"...Two separate policy guidelines were prepared in 1998 for private radio and television channels but the government later decided to formulate a comprehensive policy to encourage competition and ensure professionalism in the electronic media. 'We have already collected the policies and regulations of other SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) countries and a committee is working on the proposed regulations,' the Information Secretary said. Currently, Bangladesh has no law for private radio and television [broadcasting] channels. The authorities are using acts under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1885, the Telegraph Act, 1933 and Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) Act, 2001 - to allocate frequency and oversee technological aspects of the channels."
"Another Type of Mass Media Is Not Only Possible" by AHm Bazlur Rahman, Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, 17 December 2005. This is an NGO activist's overview of the situation for all types of electronic media in Bangladesh, from amateur radio to broadcasting to CB and telephony, along with a synopsis of BNNRC's agenda and activities (see their website for additional information): "...there are no conditions for the grant of a license, and no system by which to develop and apply such conditions. This deprives the decision-makers of a clear, public interest driven means by which to assess competing license applications or even to assess individual applications..."
"JS body for reforming telecom laws,"News from Bangladesh, 30 August 2005: the Parliament's Standing Committee on Post and Telecommunications Ministry instructed the ministry to draft a new telecom law.