INTERNATIONAL CALL TERMINATION

Govt sets floor rate in violation of telecom law

HM Murtuza | Published: 00:13, Feb 17,2020

 
 

A file photo shows the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission office in the capital. The government has set only the floor rate of incoming international calls at 0.6 US cents per minute, slashing the rate by 65.71 per cent, in violation of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001. — New Age photo

The government has set only the floor rate of incoming international calls at 0.6 US cents per minute, slashing the rate by 65.71 per cent, in violation of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001.

To this end, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission issued a notice on February 13 that also allowed international gateway operators, which bring international call to the country, to share revenue with the government at the floor rate.

The BB circular, however, did guarantee that the rate cut would be beneficial for the customers.

Earlier, the incoming international call rate was set at between 1.75 US cents and 2.5 US cents.

However, the IGW operators were allowed to share revenue with the government on the floor price, 1.75 US cents, even if the calls were brought at 2.5 US cents.

The latest notification of the BTRC on international call termination rate, however, did not specify the ceiling on incoming international call termination rate, applicable to the IGW operators.

The commission refrained from specifying the upper limit of incoming international call termination rate even though specification of the upper limit is a must for the commission under the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001.

According to the section 48 of the telecom act, an operator must, before providing service, submit to the commission a tariff containing the maximum charges that may be realised for such service, and until the tariff is approved by the commission, the operator must not start providing the service or realising charges for the service.

Asked, BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque told New Age on Sunday, ‘The decision was made based on discussion with the higher authority.’

‘The rate set in the notice would be considered as the upper limit,’ he said, adding, ‘Illegal incoming call termination would increase if calls are brought at above 0.6 US cents.’

‘We have set the rate as a test case and will review the situation after a certain period of time,’ Jahurul said.

Setting the minimum tariff rate and allowing the IGW operators sharing revenue with the government on the minimum rate would result in lower revenue receipt of the government against the international call termination rate.

BTRC officials, however, said that the rate was reduced with a view to supporting the turnaround of incoming international calls through legal channel amid IGW Operators’ Forum’s (IOF) persuasion in the context of drastic fall in incoming international calls.

The daily average incoming international call volume dropped to 80 lakh minutes in January this year from 5.4 crore minutes per day two years ago.

Although the government reduced the lower rate drastically, it was not mandatory for the IGW operators to bring calls at the lower rate, meaning that the operators may bring calls at above the BTRC-set limit.

BTRC officials also said that the slashed rate would help increase the inflow of international calls, thus resulting in an increase in the government revenue as the reduced rate would make illegal international call termination less viable.

Alignment of the international call termination rate with the local call rate was another reason for the revision, they said.

Besides, the increased flow of incoming international calls through legal channel in turn would increase the government’s revenue from the segment, they said.

The volume of incoming international call has been on the decline for the last several years amid illegal VoIP, OTT-based calls and on privacy ground.

As per the existing revenue sharing policy, the government gets 40 per cent of the revenue through incoming international call termination, IGW operators 20 per cent, interconnecting exchanges 17.5 per cent and mobile operators 22.5 per cent.

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