Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission in a surprise move on Wednesday invited applications for awarding international gateway licence/s amid political pressure at the fag end of the Awami Leage-led government’s consecutive second term.
The commission’s move came following instruction from the government high-ups, sources said.
The commission in its notice asked eligible entities to submit proposals by 12:00pm of October 10 this year following relevant rules and regulations.
The commission would open the applications on the same day, the BTRC notice said.
BTRC would follow the Licensing Procedure Regulations, 2004 to issue the IGW services licence, it said.
The invitation, however, did not mention the number of licences it would issue.
The invitation is made with a view to issuing a licence to a specific entity but the number might increase if the commission receives any other instruction, said BTRC officials.
A senior BTRC official said the applications were sought as the government wanted to give more licences, although there were already an adequate number of operators in the market.
He said any new entry might shrink business opportunities for the existing players.
IGW operators also said that the move of the telecom regulator would make the saturated IGW business more difficult for the existing operators.
In 2008, there were only four licensed IGW operators in the market.
The telecom regulator in 2012 based on its assessment had informed the government that it could hardly allow four more entities to run the business.
The government, however, awarded 25 licences taking the number of operators to 29 within 2013, making the market saturated.
The telecom regulator following pressure from the politically affiliated businesses issued the new licences.
At present the number of licensed IGW operators has declined to 25 as some of them have forced to close business due to intense competition.
The increase in the total number of operators reduced the viability of the business, for which the government reduced its share of the revenue to 40 per cent.
Later the operators created a cartel and increased the incoming international call routing rate to 2 cents per minute. However, they continued sharing revenue with the government at the previous rate of 1.5 cents per minute.
Amidst this unlawful practice, the average number of international calls coming in through the legal channel every day declined by 20 per cent or by 1.1 crore minutes in last six months.
Currently calls of about 4.5 crore minutes in duration are coming in to the country every day. It was about 11 crore minutes on average every day in September, 2014.
Even in 2012-13, the governments earnings were over Tk 1,600 crore from this business. Now it has come down to about Tk 500 crore a year.
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