VoIP watch to go on
The BTRC will continue its investigation of illegal VoIP activities by any telephone operator or Internet service provider and shut them down, if found guilty, as it did in cases of three private landline companies and 18 ISPs recently.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is ignoring the plights of around 4,00,000 subscribers of the three phone companies, saying it does not want any citizen to use telecom services of companies involved in illegal activities.
Some clients of these three landline operators--RanksTel, Dhaka Phone and WorldTel--have accused the BTRC of not having considered their rights while shutting down operations of these telecom service providers.
The BTRC will serve show-cause notices on operators already accused of conducting illegal VoIP business.
"If they fail to give satisfactory reply, the commission will go for tougher actions like cancelling licences or imposing penalty or both," BTRC Chairman Zia Ahmed told The Daily Star yesterday.
Industry insiders said the VoIP-based call termination business has already captured over 40 percent of the market of incoming and outgoing international calls. This has tremendously affected telecom companies licensed to handle international calls while the government is being deprived of huge revenue.
Illegal VoIP operation has been thriving in Bangladesh since the late 1990s amid the authorities' silence. At one point in 2006-07, such operators were taking away around Tk 15,000 crore annually, the money too being illegally transacted internationally.
During the last caretaker government rule the BTRC fined five mobile phone operators and a few landline service providers for their involvement in the illegal business. It realised around Tk 650 crore in fines from them.
By 2008, illegal VoIP business shrank amid strong drives spearheaded by the Rapid Action Battalion and the BTRC. Soon after the political government came to power, the VoIP business reappeared on the scene.
The prime minister in a decisive move recently directed the telecom ministry and BTRC to take steps against illegal VoIP operation.
Twelve landline operators and six mobile phone operators have more than 56 million customers in Bangladesh with mobile operators serving around 54 million.
More than one crore non-resident Bangladeshis generate over three crore minutes' calls to Bangladesh every day.
The BTRC chairman claimed that after the recent drive international call termination through legal channels jumped over 4.5 crore minutes a day as of yesterday from 3 crore a week ago.
The telecom regulator filed a case against 12 officials of RanksTel with Tejgaon Police Station yesterday.
In two recent raids, the BTRC seized huge VoIP equipment from Dhaka Phone and WorldTel on March 14 and March 16. Dhaka Phone's five top officials were arrested and sent to jail.
With 2,88,272 subscribers throughout Bangladesh, Ranks Telecom Ltd is the largest private fixed line operator. Dhaka Phone has 75,000 customers while WorldTel has 14,000.