POST TIME: 2 August, 2018 02:02:31 AM
Uniform call rate set Tk 0.5 per minute
BTRC instructed to implement it before launch of MNP

Uniform call rate set Tk 0.5 per minute

The Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology has instructed BTRC to set Tk 0.5 per minute as a uniform call rate for mobile phones to establish a level playing field for the country’s telecom operators.

The decision was taken at a joint meeting of Telecommunications Division and BTRC held at Ganabhaban in the capital yesterday, the meeting sources said.

BTRC has also been asked to implement the rate before launch of the MNP service.

The commission had proposed a Tk 0.45 per minute call rate.

Two out of the three top mobile phone operators want the on-net (same network) and off-net (other network) calls rates to be withdrawal and a uniform call rate to be introduced, but market leader Grameenphone has opposed the move.

Telecommunication and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the government would introduce a uniform call rate to help remove discrimination in the market.

He also said the uniform call rate would be launched before rolling out the mobile number portability (MNP) scheme. The move will help to improve the service quality of mobile phone operators.

Bangladesh is the only country to use different call rates.

“The telecom regulator has started its work to introduce a uniform call rate which will benefit subscribers,” acting chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulator Commission (BTRC) Md. Jahurul Haque told The Independent earlier.

 “Unfair competition is going on in the country's telecom market, as there is no fair competitive regulation among the mobile operators. As it is absent in the market, we have to work to popularise the MNP service and to improve service quality,” said a top BTRC official.

Citing an example, he said, a few days ago, Norway fined their government-owned company Telenor $97 million for violating competitive regulations.

Now, the minimum charge set by BTRC for on-net is Tk 0.25 per minute and off-net Tk 0.60. The maximum charge is Tk 2 per minute.

At present, 90 per cent calls of Grameenphone is on-net or GP-to-GP. Robi and Banglalink subscribers make up to 70 per cent on-net and 30 per cent off-net calls. The situation of Teletalk is frustrating. The on-net call of Teletalk is only 10 per cent, sources said.

Banglalink recommended the rate be fixed at Tk 0.45 a minute, while Robi wants it to be Tk 0.55 a minute, but the largest operator, Grameenphone, is opposed to the whole idea.

On June 26, 2018, Grameenphone, in a letter to the regulator, proposed the government fix the on-net call charge at Tk 0.30 a minute and off-net at Tk 0.50.

The call volume of the mobile industry will decrease to a great extent if the uniform rate is introduced, said Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer at Grameenphone, at a city hotel last week.

For every operator, around 64 per cent of the calls come from the same network, he said, adding that a rise in the on-net floor price would bring down the operators’ profits.

“But, I could not predict how many calls will be reduced by the government move or how it will hurt Grameenphone's business,” Hossain said.

Not only Grameenphone, other operators, too, would incur losses because of the single call rate, he said.

At present, 75 per cent of Grameenphone's revenue comes from voice calls, he said.

According to the BTRC, the total number of mobile phone subscribers has reached 150.727 million at the end of May 2018.

Among them, GP has 68.594 million, Robi 45.229, Banglalink 33.346 million and Teletalk 3.757 million.