Int’l call rate cut yet to benefit expatriate Bangladeshis | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 25, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:00 AM, February 25, 2020

Int’l call rate cut yet to benefit expatriate Bangladeshis

Bangladeshis living abroad are still paying higher charges for international incoming voice calls although the government has cut the rate by 65.71 per cent to boost earnings from the sector.

The international gateway operators, known as IGWs, are charging $0.017 a minute for the international calls although the government prescribed the rate should not exceed $0.006.

However, the IGWs are sharing revenues at the government-set rate of $0.006, pocketing the extra amount.

The telecom regulator fixed the floor price at $0.006 a minute for international call termination on February 13, but it said nothing about the celling.

The latest decision also meant that IGWs will share revenue with the government based on the declared floor price regardless of how much they actually charge on calls.

The IGWs are taking benefit of these loopholes, according to industry insiders.

It is surprising to see the government is allowing a licensee to share revenue at the floor price and not the actual rates, said SM Farhad, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).

"What about other telecom licensees who have both upper and lower limits for their products or services?"

He also doubted whether the expatriates will at all be able to talk to their friends and families at the new tariff for international calls.

Bangladesh received about 888 million minutes of international calls on an average every month last year, according to data from the AMTOB.

The country's overall earnings were $15.54 million in 2019 at the termination rate of $0.017, the association said in a letter to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on February 20.

The government will lose a few hundred crores of taka if the new rate is implemented, the association said.

If the call rate cut increases the number of incoming calls by 10 per cent, the country will be deprived of $9.68 million a year in lost earnings, the AMTOB estimated.

But if the number of calls increases by 20 per cent, Bangladesh is supposed to lose $9.15 million a year, it found.

The new regulation on the incoming call termination rate will leave a huge negative impact on the revenue stream of the government, said Farhad.

The revenue for other players, including interconnection exchanges and mobile network operators, will also decline drastically, he added.

The rate was cut following requests from the IGWs to help them cope with the growing threat of internet-based communication services, said Md Jahirul Haque, chairman of the BTRC.

"We have studied the market and found that a significant portion of international calls are now made through internet-based communication platforms, which cost nothing other than the price of data. That is why the BTRC had to revise the rate."

The mobile operators are protesting the new incoming call rate as they run promotional campaigns on the internet-based communication applications, he added.

In fiscal 2014-15, the government's earnings from international calls stood at Tk 2,075.62 crore. It declined to Tk 1,387.37 crore, Tk 967.63 crore, Tk 900.35 crore and just a few hundred crores in the successive years, according to BTRC officials.

Currently, Bangladesh has 24 IGWs.  

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