The average incoming international calls per day through legal channels declined by 11.11 per cent or 60 lakh minutes in May this year after the government surprisingly increased call termination rate in February this year, said officials.
As per the latest report of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, average international call termination through legal channel declined to 4.8 crore minutes per day in May from 5.4 crore minutes per day in February, when the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission introduced the new call termination rate at 2.5 US cents per minute.
Average international call termination through legal channel was 5.3 crore minutes in March and 5.2 crore minutes in April this year.
As a result, the government is being deprived of a huge amount of revenue due to the fall in the volume of international calls as IGW operators are supposed to share 43 per cent of their revenue with the government.
An official told New Age that the commission’s reluctance to identify illegal voice over internet protocol business along with pressure from influential quarters to keep the rate high worked as major factor behind the drastic fall.
As per the BTRC directive on the new call rate, international gateway operators were allowed to bring international calls at 2.5 US cents (Tk 2) per minute instead of the previous rate of 2 US cents per minute.
The operators, however, are allowed to share revenue with the government at 1.75 US cents (Tk 1.4) per minute.
A few days before the new call rate was introduced, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in January this year reduced international call charge to Tk 0.38 per minute from Tk 0.67 per minute with a view to containing the app-based international phone calls and to encourage international calls through legal channel.
Although the regulatory body faced heavy opposition from the IGW operators, the TRAI stuck to its decision of increasing the rate.
Against the backdrop of declining volume of international call, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission in April 2017 initiated a move to lower the international call termination rate to 1.5-1.6 US cents.
The telecom regulator, however, failed to implement the decision mainly for opposition from influential quarters. Even the proposals could not be sent to the posts and telecommunications ministry for approval.
In April this year, Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited issued a letter to the ministry opposing the new directive on international call termination rate.
BTCL also found that the BTRC-set directive impractical considering the declining volume of international calls through legal channel due to the rise in mobile application-based phone calls, a senior BTRC official told New Age.
BTCL, also an IGW operator, would face drastic fall in international calls along with revenue fall as the new ICTR would prompt illegal VoIP and mobile application-based calls, he said.
Earlier in September 2014, the government reduced the rate to US 1.5 cents from US 3 cents, reasoning that this step would increase international call termination through legal channel.
Although the government instruction of 2014 became invalid in September 2015, the IGW operators shared revenue with the government at the rate of 1.5 US cents despite the fact that they were bringing international calls at the rate of 2 US cents per minute.
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