POST TIME: 25 December, 2017 12:59:18 AM
BTRC finalises draft guidelines for telecom value-added services

BTRC finalises draft guidelines for telecom value-added services

After receiving instructions from the Posts and Telecommunications Division, Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has finalised the draft set of guidelines for telecom value-added services after some four years.

BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood said: “It's expected that more investments will come into the value-added services sector of the telecom industry if guidelines are finalised.”

“We've prepared the guidelines to create a win-win situation for all. Following this, the VAS providers will get proper evaluation,” he added.

With a view to imparting stability to the telecom value-added services sector, the BTRC had taken its first initiative to formulate guidelines to provide VAS in 2012 and sent it to the Posts and Telecommunications Division.

BTRC officials said the new draft guideline was formulated for creating local entrepreneurs.

The initiatives of the regulator became unsuccessful at that time amid strong oppositions from the mobile phone companies.

Value-added services are provided by a third-party company through mobile phone networks. Mobile phone companies offer basic telecom services like voice and data plans, but the other services, such as missed call alert, welcome tune and various application-based services, are provided by VAS providers.

According to the 209th meeting of the commission, the BTRC did not receive any official instruction from the Posts and Telecommunications Division regarding the guidelines till January this year.  

The BTRC later repeatedly requested the Division to give its decision on this issue.

Following the BTRC’s repeated requests, the Posts and Telecommunications Division asked the telecom regulator on February 2 to finalise the draft guidelines after obtaining opinions from all stakeholders. The BTRC then held discussions with the association of service providers on February 27 and mobile phone operators on March 2 with a view to reviewing the guidelines.

The BTRC Secretariat sought the opinions of the Legal and Licensing Division and Engineering and Operations (E&O) on April 23.

The BTRC released the draft guidelines last week on 'Telecom Value Added Services, 2016', seeking public opinion.

After evaluating all opinions, the BTRC held a meeting on September 26 with mobile phone operators and content service providers and brought about some changes in the guidelines and then finalised the draft guidelines.

“We will send the draft guidelines to the Posts and Telecommunications Division soon for its approval,” said BTRC chairman Shahjahan Mahmood.

In the draft guidelines, the regulator also said no foreign or non-resident Bangladeshi investor would be allowed to hold the entire stake in a VAS-providing entity. According to the draft guidelines, hence, a VAS-providing entity would have to have 51 per cent local ownership.

According to the commission’s decision, “In case of a foreign entity applying along with a Bangladeshi partner, foreign equity is limited to a maximum of 49 per cent. In case of any reputable foreign partner, the commission may increase the foreign equity, if required. The foreign partner shall invest in foreign currency directly equal to its percentage of ownership and no loan would be taken from Bangladesh.”

Under the BTRC’s guidelines, VAS providers would have to obtain registration certificate from the BTRC, while the application fee for registration and registration fee for a period of five years will be Tk 5,000 and Tk 50,000 respectively.

Besides, VAS providers would have to share 5.5 per cent of their gross revenue with the government and deposit 1 per cent of their gross revenues in the government’s social obligation fund.

In the case of revenue-sharing, the money should be submitted within 10 days after every three months. Such money, however, can also be deposited within the next 60 days, with 15 per cent delay charges.