Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has received 14 applications against only one international gateway operator licence.
BTRC in a surprise move on September 19 invited applications for awarding the IGW licence in a saturated market amid political pressure at the fag end of the Awami Leage-led government’s second consecutive term.
Although the government has taken the initiative with a view to awarding only one licence to a specific entity, the number of licences to be awarded finally by the commission depends on decision from the government high ups, BTRC sources said.
The process of awarding IGW licence had suspended since 2013.
BTRC, however, initiated the process with a view to awarding a licence to a business leader in the apparel industry, the sources said.
The commission opened the proposals on Wednesday after the expiry of application submission deadline.
The applicants are: RA InfoTech, Solders Gears, Red Beach Resources, Avis Technologies, Roots Tech Communication, Infinity Telecom, Join Us Network, I Business Holdings, Padma Communication, Aman Tel, Level 3 Telecom, Well Information Tec, 2G Telecom and Rana Trading.
BTRC would follow the Licensing Procedure Regulations, 2004 to issue the IGW service licence, said the bid invitation notice of BTRC.
The invitation, however, did not mention the number of licences it would issue.
‘The commission will now evaluate the applications and the competent entities would get licences based on the government’s approval,’ a senior BTRC official said.
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 an intense competition.
The increase in the 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.
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.
Despite the fall in international calls, the government in February this year increased international call termination rate to 2.5 US cents from 2 US cents while operators were asked to share revenue with the government at 1.75 US cents per minute.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Miscellany