Government may cut voice call rates by 25pc

The government is likely to cut mobile voice call rates to maximum Tk 1.5 from existing Tk 2 per minute, a top official has confirmed.

“We have sent a proposal to the posts and telecommunications division for lowering the mobile voice call rates,” Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmud told daily sun on Thursday.

He also said the cut in voice tariff will make cell phone services more affordable for the subscribers though it might cause a fall in the revenue stream for the government. Telecom operators, however, declined to comment on the extent of the effect of the tariff cut on their revenue figures.

BTRC has also proposed to lower the minimum off-net (when the call is made on a different network) tariff to Tk 0.45 from existing Tk 0.60 per minute.

However, the mobile operators have proposed to hike the minimum on-net (calls between the same network) tariff to Tk 0.35 from existing Tk 0.25 per minute.

About the proposed hike in on-net call rates, the BTRC chief said they have a plan to introduce a same-tariff structure both on-net and off-net calls in the next two years.

In the tariff proposal submitted on August 1, BTRC System and Services Director Mohamemd Azizur Rahman Siddique said the new call rates can be introduced on an experimental basis.

The government will take the final decision on the tariff plan as per the recommendation of a consultant from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), BTRC officials have said.

The government has introduced the existing mobile call rates five years back on April 25, 2012.

Over the last few years, the government has introduced a series of services for cell phone operators, such as mobile number portability, and compensation for call drops to increase user satisfaction.

Besides, 4G auction and the introduction of technology neutrality are in the offing.

Mobile phone users made voice calls of 70 crore minutes per day on an average in 2016, according to telecom operators’ data.

The telecom operators invested Tk 48,000 crore in the country from 2009 to 2016 thanks to the 3G spectrum allocation, renewal of licenses and procurement of biometric devices, according to the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).

Besides, the government is targeting to earn Tk 4,719.19 crore from the mobile operators as spectrum conversion or technology neutrality fees before going for the 4G auction this year, a top official has said.

The cell-phone operators have been aggrieved by some of the government’s recent decisions that pushed up their costs and slimmed down the returns on their investments.

But the telecom sector insiders said most of the operators hide their actual revenue to keep the tax and revenue-sharing burden as minimum as possible.

The number mobile subscribers in Bangladesh currently stands at around 13.59 crore.

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