The government has fixed Tk 0.50 as the minimum rate that mobile operators can charge per minute for calls to any network, creating a level playing field for carriers ahead of the launch of the mobile number portability service.
Currently, the lowest rate for a call within a network is Tk 0.25 and to a different network Tk 0.60.
Now, a call to any mobile phone number, even if it is within the same network, would cost Tk 0.50 per minute. Operators are charging about Tk 0.40 on an average for calls to the same network.
The maximum that the operators can charge per minute is Tk 1.50, down from Tk 2.
Scheduled to come into effect immediately, the decision is expected to benefit small operators and make the upcoming mobile number portability (MNP) service successful. Mobile phone operators, however, predict overcall call expenses to remain unchanged.
The rates were fixed at a meeting at Gono Bhaban yesterday in presence of Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy. The Daily Star confirmed what went on with at least four of the attendees.
The meeting also granted a two-month extension for the launch of the MNP service as some of the operators were yet to complete their preparations.
The service, which will give the subscriber the freedom to switch operators while retaining his/her existing eleven-digit number, will now be rolled out on October 1.
Joy had asked the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to become a VAT-registered entity with the National Board of Revenue. The telecom regulator has long opposed the idea.
Doing so will allow the BTRC to give out receipts while receiving VAT payments, which the mobile operators would then be able to use to get rebates from the NBR, said officials.
The meeting also approved two additional operator codes for Grameenphone and Banglalink. The duo had earlier sought 013 and 010 respectively.
Grameenphone had made the request with the regulator several times as its existing 017 code was running out of combinations. Currently Robi is using the 016 and 018 codes.
Joy also asked the mobile operators to immediately bring into effect a 5 percent VAT on internet usage.
Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar, Telecom Secretary Shyam Sunder Sikder, BTRC acting chairman Md Jahurul Haque and other commissioners and CEOs of mobile operators attended the meeting.