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3 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Operators split on uniform mobile phone call rate

TAREQUE MORETAZA
Operators split on uniform mobile phone call rate

Mobile phone operators are split over the government’s plan of introducing a uniform call rate for mobile phones to establish a level playing field in the country’s telecom market.

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.

Telecom 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, planned to be launched on July 31 this year. 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 on Sunday.

Jahurul Haque, however, said it was certain that it would be operational within the stipulated time by the telecom and ICT minister.

According to commission sources, the BTRC has fixed a Tk 0.45 per minute call rate after the review of the common call rate.

“We're discussing and there will be a decision,” he said.

“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.

Currently, for each minute the operators charge Tk 0.35 to Tk 0.40 on an average for on-net (same network) calls and Tk 0.91 to Tk 1.05 for off-net (other network) calls.

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.

 

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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.

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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