Robi lets rip at the ongoing price war

23 May 2020 1:20 PM
Within an unprecedented move, the country's second greatest mobile operator yesterday blew off its pent-up resentment against the marketplace leader over its offer of free voice call minutes and bonus data packs on humanitarian grounds through the pandemic.

Without mentioning the name of Grameenphone, Robi officials said such a price war waged by the leading operator will push smaller carriers to the brink of collapse.

Within an online press conference, Robi's Chief Executive Officer Mahtab Uddin Ahmed also expressed dismay over the regulator's approval to the Grameenphone package with some initiatives, one of them being 10 crore free minutes to at least one 1 crore customers (ten minutes per user).

Grameenphone also offered monthly 30GB data to the 25,000 registered doctors of the Directorate General of Health Services with a token Tk 1 monthly for the next half a year.

The top player has gone out to grab the marketplace in the pretext of COVID-19 crisis and this is a clear example of price war declared by the marketplace leader, said Ahmed, also the president of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.

"We expect that the marketplace leader will be sensible regarding their offers and can keep their belief in co-existence," he said while calling after the federal government and the regulator to consider what he conditions an unhealthy competition.

Ahmed also warned that if the regulator does not part of to discipline the market leader, it will continue steadily to profit from the pandemic to help expand its business interests.

"Unless the regulator and the government believe that the country's interest is best served by having only 1 operator available in the market, they need to make their move at this time, because we will not be able to sustain our business if the market leader is not made to abide by significant market power (SMP) regulations now," he added.

The rift between Grameenphone and the others started out to widen when Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk demanded some free spectrum for the time being to take care of the surge in data use amid the shutdown.

Grameenphone had also later sought additional spectrum for the same purpose but maintained a stance against the thought of free allocation of spectrum.

Ahmed yesterday said different countries like the US awarded free spectrum with their carriers to help ensure better service and promote social distancing.

Robi has no other option but to create retaliatory offers to secure their market share plus some packages were already underway, like 10-minute talk-time and 50MB free data for customers who used to recharge regularly however now cannot do so due to the public health crisis.

The operator will pursue aggressive data bundle offers and already chalked out an idea to support stakeholders in the company's sales and distribution channels with food supply, credit facilities and health insurance.

As Grameenphone can be an SMP operator, the regulator should keep this in mind while approving its packages; otherwise, the marketplace will have to brace for dire consequences, said Shahed Alam, Robi's chief corporate and regulatory officer.

In the Indian market, there have been 12 carriers a good couple of years ago, but only four now exist because of an unfair competition as a result of an operator with huge financial muscle.

About the complaints of Robi, Grameenphone said this is the time to stand beside the country with collective efforts and act responsibly.

"It really is regrettable that such remarks are created. We appreciate that others are inspired and coming forward," said Md Hasan, head of its external communications.