Grameenphone subscribers’ minimum call rate is set to increase by 5 paisa a minute to Tk 0.50 as part of restrictions imposed on the operator for being declared a significant market power.
Currently, the minimum call rate for operators is Tk 0.45 a minute and after adding the value-added tax and other duties the charge goes up to Tk 0.54 to any operator.
But, Grameenphone’s average call rate is Tk 0.70 a minute, so the penalty from the telecom regulator is unlikely to affect its customers.
The operator, however, cannot pass on the burden of the incremental costs to existing customers already using packages that charge less than Tk 0.50 a minute for calls.
The leading operator will also have to pay 5 paisa more to other operators for calls its subscribers make to another network.
At present, the interconnection cost is 10 paisa a minute. But for Grameenphone it will be 15 paisa, according to a proposal that will be placed at the commission meeting today.
The extra charge also cannot be passed on to their customers.
At present, Grameenphone sends about seven crore minutes of calls to other operators and it receives about ten crore minutes from the other operators. And through this gap the market leader earns handsome revenue every day.
The third penalty on the operator will be prior approval from the telecom regulator before it can roll out any package.
At present, operators just inform the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission before rolling out the package.
But Grameenphone will soon have to do a presentation before a BTRC body and convince that the package is not indulging in predatory pricing before it can run it.
The decisions were agreed upon at the telecom division meeting two weeks ago that was presided over by Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar and Prime Minister’s ICT Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy.
“We will not take any decision that will go against the customers. At the same, it is becoming tough to control Grameenphone and it is our responsibility to break up the monopoly,” said Md Jahurul Haque, chairman of the BTRC, at a meeting with the Telecom Reporters’ Network Bangladesh yesterday.
The telecom regulator has no intention to penalise any specific operator but at the same time it wants to bring a mechanism to enhance competition in the market, he said, adding that there are plans to introduce SMP in the other segments of telecom business.
Earlier on February 11, the BTRC declared Grameenphone the country’s first SMP operator considering its revenue share is more than 50 percent and customer share is about 47 percent.
On February 18, the operator was slapped with four restrictions by the regulator as part of the penalties for becoming a SMP, which the operator challenged in court.
The BTRC had asked the operator to implement the restrictions from March 1, which include a ban on signing any exclusive deals with goods and service providers.
Later on March 19, the telecom regulator scrapped the process and started afresh.
About the mobile operators’ audit issues, Haque said actions will be taken against the operators as per the law.
The BTRC’s options which include declining to issue no-objection certificates (NOC) for different issues, partially blocking calls and issuing show cause notice on why not the licence will not be cancelled.
The telecom watchdog has claimed Tk 12,579.95 crore from Grameenphone and Tk 867.24 crore from Robi.
However, Grameenphone demanded the BTRC withdraws the claims as they are “unfounded and without any legal basis”.