• Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Telecom runs with obsolete policy

Abdullah Mamun

The telecom sector is running with a 16-year-old and outdated policy as the government failed to revise it.
The current telecom policy was formulated in 1998, with a vision to mainly facilitate voice services. At that time data services were described as 'value added services', which are now defined as very basic services.
Munir Hasan, a former consultant of the ICT ministry, said it is not possible to move forward with the policy as most of the targets of the policy were fulfilled years ago.
The policy focuses neither on the mobile sector nor broadband internet penetration, he said.
The current telecom law was formulated in 2001 in line with the telecom policy. The law was amended in 2010, but it still holds the old vision.
The current policy reads that the government would establish a telecommunication regulatory commission. But a regulator has been in operation for the last 12 years.
Abu Saeed Khan, a senior policy fellow of LIRNEasia which is a Colombo-based ICT policy and regulation think tank, said the current policy describes mobile phone services as 'value added services', which indicates how outdated the policy is.
The policy was made by the then Awami League government, which is now in power again with the vision of establishing a 'Digital Bangladesh', he said.
The policy has to reflect how the government would achieve its vision, he added.
Khan said the revised telecom policy should provide a roadmap to take broadband penetration to respectable levels.
The policy is too old to describe the telecom sector as most of the policy's targets have been met by 2010.
One of the objectives of the policy was to establish a robust private sector, as it was beginning to boom at the time, but the situation is quite different now, he added.

Currently, the total mobile and land phone connectivity stands at around 11.6 crore, while subscriptions of state-owned mobile phone operator Teletalk and land phone operator BTCL are not more than 40 lakh.
According to the long-term targets of the policy, it eyed to achieve 10 percent tele-density by 2025, but it was fulfilled long ago and is now around 60 percent.
Md Abubakar Siddique, telecom secretary, said steps are being taken to update the policy. A draft is going to be finalised soon and will be opened to all for views; it will later be approved by the cabinet, he added.
The draft was prepared by a consultant from International Telecommunication Union, a UN wing on telecommunication and ICT. It was sent to the ITU with observations, he said.
The secretary also said all national policies should be revised in every four to five years.
However, an analyst said the government may not be able to revise the policy by the next six months.
A revised telecom policy was prepared in 2010, but the government finally did not go for it, the analyst said requesting not to be named.

Published: 12:01 am Sunday, April 06, 2014

Last modified: 7:20 pm Sunday, April 06, 2014

TAGS: government telecom sector ICT ministry broadband internet LIRNEasia

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