The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has ordered the telecom operators to introduce the minimum uniform call rate of Tk 0.45 a minute from today.
The uniform charge will remove the call rate disparity and help the telecom watchdog establish a level playing field for all the operators, said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the commission.
“The abolishment of the different call rates will put pressure on the mobile phone operators to improve their service quality to attract customers.”
This is the first time in 10 years that the BTRC has revised the tariffs for voice calls.
In 2008, the regulator fixed a floor price of Tk 0.25 per minute for on-net calls and Tk 0.60 for off-net calls as well as Tk 2 as the ceiling.
No country in the world has two different rates for on-net (same network) and off-net (different network) calls, Haque said.
The move will also protect customers from bill shocks when the mobile number portability (MNP) is made available following its launch in October this year, he said.
With the MNP, people will not be able to identify whether they are making on-net or off-net calls as the service allows users to switch to a different operator without changing their existing mobile phone numbers.
“We are trying to implement the order as soon as possible,” said Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer at Grameenphone.
Hossain said the uniform call rate would not affect the revenue of the operators as well as the regulator. However, customers who mostly make on-net calls would have to spend more because of the single rate while the off-net callers will benefit from the move, he said.
"We welcome the initiative taken by the government,” said Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer of Banglalink.
“We firmly believe that it will play a significant role in simplifying customers' lives as they will no longer need to think about the network they are calling to.”
Customers can now make on-net and off-net calls at the same cost, which was not possible before, he said.
“As we received the final directive this afternoon, we are working to implement it complying with all the instructions. Banglalink is always committed to providing the best value for money to its customers.”
The order came from Prime Minister's ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy during a meeting with the officials of the telecom regulator and the mobile operators two weeks ago.
At the meeting, recommendations were placed to fix Tk 0.40 for every minute of mobile phone calls, but it was discarded later showing reasons that state-run Teletalk would have to count losses if the rate is fixed at Tk 0.40, a BTRC official said.
Earlier, Banglalink had recommended the rate to be fixed at Tk 0.45 a minute while Robi wanted it to be Tk 0.55 a minute, but the largest operator, Grameenphone, opposed the whole idea.
The operators charge Tk 0.35 to Tk 0.40 per minute on an average for on-net calls and Tk 0.91 to Tk 1.05 for off-net calls. In both cases, the upper ceiling is Tk 2 a minute, which will remain unchanged in the new rate structure. Currently, there are 15.09 crore active mobile connections.