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RIP Citycell

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FT ONLINE

Citycell, the cellphone operator that started from scratch, is about to end with nothing as well.

In a reversal of fortunes, the operator currently has no active subscribers, employees or even its own office.

The telecommunications regulation organisation BTRC has also sent a request to cancel the company’s operating license to the Posts and Telecommunications Division, ending employees’ hopes that the company would resurface.

Even though most employees have received part of their backpay, some have yet to receive any. However, an anonymous source has confirmed that employees who have received part of their backpay will not be receiving any more of their compensation from the company.

BTRC has sent a letter to the Posts and Telecommunications Division on June 8, asking for permission to cancel Citycell’s operating license.

The letter follows a Posts and Telecommunication Division meeting on May 8 where the decision to cancel the operator’s license was made. Sajeeb Wazed Joy, Information and Communication Technology Adviser to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was the chief guest at the meeting.

The decision was taken citing Citycell’s parent company, Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Limited’s (PBTL) non-payment of overdue fees to BTRC.

While Citycell was shut down last year, it reopened on November 6. However, operations were severely limited since calls could not be made or received on the operator’s numbers.

Citycell’s Senior Executive and President of the Employees’ Union Ashraful Karim said: “All the organisation’s staffs and employees up to senior executives have received part of their backpay, gratuities, bonuses and provident fund. Some deputy managers have also received their backpays as well.”

However, he said that money from the employees’ provident fund for 2014-2016 has not been received yet.

“To be honest, there is no functioning authority for the company anymore, there are only owners and employees. This has made it harder to make demands to anyone. We are worried that we will not get all of our backpay. No one has been to the office in the last three of four months. It becomes harder to make demands when there is no one in the office to make demands to,” he added.

On July 31 last year, BTRC asked Citycell subscribers to look for an alternate service provider in a public announcement.

On August 14, state minister for the Posts and Telecommunications Division Tarana Halim said: “Citycell subscribers will receive an extension to switch to a new service.”

Citycell appealed the BTRC’s notice in the High Court, where a ruling ordered the company to pay Tk477.51 crore overdue fees in two installments to BTRC within two months.

The Supreme Court also asked the BTRC to immediately reinstate Citycell’s spectrum allocation on condition. However, when the spectrum allocation was not reopened two days after the ruling, the operator reappealed to the court after paying overdue fees of Tk144 crore.

The apex court set a deadline until November 19, 2016 for the company to pay another Tk100 crore overdue fines, or face suspension of their spectrum allocation from BTRC.

Citycell’s spectrum allocation was suspended on October 20 last year for its failure to pay overdue fees.

-SAM

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