Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bangladesh - Regulator is reviewing its decision to close five fixed network operators for providing "illegal" VoIP services

[financial express] The telecommunication regulatory body has planned to review its decision about the five shut-down PSTN (public switched telephone network) operators that have remained closed since March, 2010 as penalty for doing illegal VoIP business.

"We will sit soon on this issue," a high official of the regulatory body told the FE, seeking anonymity, adding that the body can review any decision in response to the appeal of the victimised operators.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, told the FE Tuesday that they have asked both the ministry and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to resolve the issue.

He expressed the hope that they would get a result within less than one month.

Earlier, the same standing body suggested the BTRC and the government to review the issue for the greater interest of the local industry.

The five PSTN companies, the operations of which have been shut following their involvement in illegal VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) business, are: RanksTel, PeoplesTel, Dhaka Phone, National Telecom and WorldTel.

VoIP is a technology that allows free telephone calls over the internet.

Industry insiders said over Tk 10 billion (1,000 crore) investments of the country's five PSTN operators out of nine remained stuck as the telecom regulator ordered closure of their operations.

The PSTN operators are counting heavy losses as the consequences as they are paying interest against their bank loans and maintaining regular office expenses like house rent and staff salaries, they said.

"We are still maintaining office internally expecting that the government will withdraw the ban on our operations shortly," head of operations of RanksTel Abul Kalam Shamsuddin told the FE.

The industry people said the same allegation was also made against some mobile operators but they were fined and their licences were not cancelled.

Criticising the BTRC, they said this discriminating behaviour has destroyed the domestic industry as a whole instead of giving them chance of correction.

Speaking on the licence cancellation issue, a BTRC official said both the PSTN and the mobile operators were fined for their illegal VoIP business during the tenure of the caretaker government but no action has been taken against anyone during the period of the democratically elected government.

He said the law is applicable to all and, as the regulatory body, we cannot discriminate between domestic or foreign operators.

Earlier, the regulatory body realised Tk 8.38 billion as fine from Grameenphone, Banglalink, AKTEL and CityCell for their involvement in illegal VOIP operation.

The private land-phone company RanksTel was also fined Tk 150 million.

RanksTel official Shamsuddin mentioned that they had an investment of about Tk 4.0 billion with 450 employees and 500 dealers.

He said that they did not get any response despite appealing to the authority.

Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WorldTel Nayeem Chowdhury told the FE that the equipment and bank loan have now become their excruciating burdens.

He expressed the hope that the authority will reconsider their decision and revive the closed PSTN operators soon.

Talking to the FE, Assistant General Manager (AGM) of PeoplesTel Mohammad Joynal Abedin mentioned about their miserable condition. The company that invested about Tk 3.5 billion has been continuing the house rent and salaries of employees.

He also added that the valuable equipment of the company was going out of order.

Among the shut down operators, RanksTel was the market leader with more than 0.3 million subscribers, followed by PeoplesTel with 160,000, National Telecom with 138,000, Dhaka Phone with 77,000 and WorldTel with 14,000 subscribers.

BTRC to review decision on ban of PSTN companies

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