The proposed value added service (VAS) guideline is unprecedented and detrimental to Digital Bangladesh, Colombo-based regional regulatory and policy think-tank LIRNEasia said in a statement.
LIRNEasia has urged the government to scrap the document. Its remark was an official response to a public consultation on the topic with the telecoms ministry.
The government has suggested that a licence should be obtained to provide VAS
in Bangladesh. It also forces the mobile
operators to discontinue any value-added services such as ringtone, wallpaper and music download.
“There is no international precedent for this,” wrote Rohan Samarajiva, the chairman and CEO of LIRNEasia in his response to the public consultation. “This proposal is harmful to the achievement of Digital Bangladesh objectives and should be withdrawn.”
Samarajiva, former head of Sri Lanka's telecom regulator, was also a policy adviser to the telecoms ministry in Bangladesh. “There is no rationale for VAS licensing that would be supported by present knowledge on ICT policy and regulation,” Samarajiva said.
“Licences are rarely issued at this granular level,” he remarked adding that at most, they would be “class licences” that would impose certain minimal obligations and enable
the regulator to contact the VAS provider if necessary.
Referring to a New York Times' report on Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, Samarajiva said the licensing of VAS “is especially inappropriate at the present time, when mobile applications, primarily for smartphones but also for feature phones, are attracting significant venture capital”.
“The new 2G licence mandates the mobile operators to provide VAS but the draft guideline contradicts it,” said Abu Saeed Khan, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom operators of Bangladesh.
“We have urged authorities to align the VAS guideline with the main licence that enables mobile operators to do their business,” Khan told The Daily Star.
Khan said the mobile industry has been actively promoting the VAS being developed by the innovative local talents. “We are closely working with all stakeholders of the VAS industry to solidify our historical relationship.”