No free talking | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 26, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:43 PM, November 27, 2016

No free talking

Telecom regulator plans gag on voice call through messenger to raise its revenue

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is going to develop guidelines for using communication applications like WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat and Imo which have cut the number of international incoming calls, BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood said yesterday.

“Hopefully, we will be able to make the guidelines public in two or three months,” he told reporters at a press conference at the BTRC office.

He said the communication applications were also responsible for the decline in international call termination via the legal channel.

Two years ago, the volume of daily incoming international voice calls was around 123 million minutes which now has come down to 70 to 80 million minutes, Shahjahan added.

“Not only illegal call termination through VoIP, but the extensive use of OTT [over-the-top] apps is also responsible for the decline in international call termination via the legal channel.”

According to the BTRC chief, the volume increased after the rate was slashed to 1.5 cents per minute from 3 cents at the end of 2014, but it dropped again after the rate was hiked to 2 cents.

Some calls went to the illegal route after the rate was increased last year, he noted.

Shahjahan said the BTRC was researching relevant rules and regulations of other countries on the issue.

Earlier, the government had blocked different communication applications at different times due to security reasons.

The telecom regulator and the Post and Telecommunications Division jointly arranged the meeting to brief journalists about the present status of illegal international call termination in the country.

Some media outlets recently reported that state-owned mobile phone operator Teletalk was involved in illegal international call termination or VoIP.

Post and Telecommunications Secretary Fairzur Rahman Chowdhury, also the chairman of Teletalk Board of Directors, said no mercy was shown to Teletalk as a public company for any illegal activity.

He said if anyone was found involved in illegal call termination using a SIM of any telecom operator, including Teletalk, the company would be held responsible for the crime. “The BTRC will show no mercy to the operator.” 

The BTRC had fined Teletalk over Tk 14 lakh for illegal international call termination.

About the unpaid penalty, the secretary said although Teletalk is a state-owned organisation, it has to pay penalties like any other private companies. “But if it fails to do so, it can adjust the financial debt with the government.”

He said making a profit was not the Teletalk's main objective, rather it needs to serve the people without incurring losses.

BTRC Vice Chairman Ahsan Habib Khan, its commissioners and high officials were present.

Although State Minister for Telecommunication Tarana Halim was not present at the press conference, her office staffs were there.

Sources said she forced the telecom regulator to organise the press conference on a weekend to protest media reports.

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