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12 December, 2017 12:40:55 AM
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USSD price guidelines await telecom ministry nod

TAREQUE MORETAZA
USSD price guidelines await telecom ministry nod

The Posts and Telecommunications Division is yet to approve the pricing guidelines for USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) in respect of mobile financial services (MFS) even though the advisor for information and communication technology (ICT) to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed the ministry to issue such an approval nearly two months ago.

The telecom regulator sent the proposed guidelines (a set of directives) to the ministry concerned for approval more than a month ago.

At a meeting held on October 19, the PM’s ICT advisor, Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, instructed the ministry to approve the USSD pricing policy.

When asked about the reasons for the delay, a senior official of the Posts and Telecommunications Division said, “We told the BTRC that only the division would be able to approve and finalise the new pricing policy if it is found that the new policy will not put extra pressure on the subscribers.”

The chairman of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Dr Shahjahan Mahmood, however, said: “We have sent our proposal to the Posts and Telecommunications Division. The division will now decide on it. We can only ensure that the new pricing policy does not exert any extra pressure on the subscribers.”

According to the proposed directive, the duration of a USSD session is 90 seconds and the charges will be Tk 0.85 for MFS, along with two free short messages.

A USSD session is completed through a set of code numbers that are pressed on a mobile phone to initiate a transaction. The USSD is a global system for mobile communication technology that is used to send text messages between a mobile phone and an application programme in the network.

The MFS providers have claimed that if the new pricing regime is indeed established, it would impact the end-users negatively.

However, according to the BTRC directive, “The directive will be applied to the relevant industry without affecting the subscribers. The subscriber, in any case, will not pay any additional amount for the implementation of this directive. MFS operators and mobile network operators will ensure this through mutual agreements between themselves.”

The mobile financial service providers currently share seven per cent revenues with the mobile operators since the MFS providers use mobile network operators’ (MNOs’) networks. However, in such cases, session-based USSD charges are the standard.

Earlier, the BTRC prepared the USSD pricing policy after consultations with the finance ministry, the Telecom Division, Bangladesh Bank, mobile financial service providers, and Association of Mobile Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).

According to the committee’s report, since there is currently no particular tariff and set of directives on USSD services, healthy competition in the market has been disrupted.

The BTRC has proposed that the USSD session charges be fixed at Tk 0.85 per session along with two free SMS, taking into account the policies of other countries like South Africa (Tk 3.60), Nigeria (Tk  0.80), Kenya (Tk 3.17), India (Tk 0.65) and Thailand (Tk 3).

EA

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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