Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has moved to take punitive measures against three mobile phone operators — Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink — for their failure in disseminating to their subscribers a voice SMS containing prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s Eid greetings.
BTRC officials told New Age that the telecom regulator asked all mobile operators to disseminate the PM’s voice greetings to their subscribers through their respective networks on the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, one of the biggest religious festivals of the Muslims that was observed in the country on June 16 this year.
They said state-run mobile phone Teletalk sent the voice SMS (short message) to its subscribers, but GP, Robi and Banglalink failed to do so.
The three mobile companies, however, said that it was logistically impossible for them to send well over 10 crore voice messages to their clients in around eight hours on the Eid day as they had received the directive to send out the 44-second voice message to all customers ‘the night before Eid this year, after the close of business’.
Acting BTRC chairman Md Rezaul Quader told New Age on Wednesday, ‘The commission would take punitive measures against the mobile phone operators as they refrained from implementing regulatory order violating rules.’
Mobile phone operators are supposed to disseminate any government information at free of cost under their licencing conditions, BTRC officials said.
The telecom regulator on July 8 formed an investigation committee to look into the matter.
The five-member investigation committee led by BTRC director general Brigadier General Md Mustafa Kamal was asked to furnish the commission with its report by five working days.
The committee was also asked to take administrative measures based on its findings.
The committee issued show-cause letters to the three mobile phone companies asking them to explain why the BTRC order relating to dissemination of the PM’s voice SMS was not implemented.
Rezaul said, ‘Before taking any punitive measures against the companies, the commission will go through their responses [to the show-cause letters] to check whether they had any valid ground or not for their failure.’
‘We hope that the committee will submit its report by the next week,’ he said.
When contacted, Grameenphone chief executive officer Michael Foley, speaking on behalf of the three operators, expressed concern over the BTRC request on sending the voice message of the prime minister and subsequent show-cause notices.
Foley, who is also the president of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said that it was absolutely natural for the head of state or the head of government to send greetings on national occasions to the citizens of the nation.
‘The medium chosen for these kinds of messages are normally, radio, television as well as social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and others. There is a long well documented history to this practice,’ he said.
‘On the night before Eid this year, after the close of business, all operators received a directive to send out a 44-second voice message to all our customers on behalf of the Hon. Prime Minister. To be clear this would have required us to send well over 100 million voice messages to the
sum total of our clients base, over a period of roughly 8 hours on the day of Eid,’ he explained.
He said that none of the operators had any platforms capable of delivering anything close to this kind of service to customers in Bangladesh. ‘There was, and is, no physical way for us to deliver on this request,’ he said.
He said that they did not blame anyone for the issue. ‘It [BTRC directive to send the SMS] was a very well-intentioned, but perhaps not completely matured initiative,’ he said.
He said that the operators had already responded to a show-cause notice on the issue and the BTRC had given another show-cause letter on the same subject which they would again respond. ‘We understand the concern, but the facts are simple, there was no time and no technology to deliver this kind of service.’
He said they respect the intent of the initiative and did not mean any disrespect.