Sunday, July 21, 2024

Mobile operators lobby against telecom bill

Govt loses Tk 5000 crore in 15 yrs
Mobile operators lobby against telecom bill
Mobile operators have been maintaining a close lobby with the high officials of the telecom ministry and parliamentary standing committee on the ministry so that the proposed amendment does not come to an effect, sources said.
“The proposed amendment to the Telecommunications Act, 2001 is necessary to curb illegal use of telecom technology and increase revenue earnings to legalise phone calls via voice over internet protocol (VoIP) business. It is facing strong opposition from the mobile operators as once the law comes to an effect, it will restrict unauthorise use of VoIP,” a high official of Telecom Ministry told The New Nation on Monday.
The official, preferring anonymity, said the amendment proposal of the Act is needed to prevent illegal use of VoIP as the mobile operators are largely blamed for availing the facility illegally from the very beginning of their operation.
According to the proposed amendment, an individual could face imprisonment of up to five years, or a maximum fine of Tk 300 crore or both for breach of law. The bill has left no room for an appeal by an operator against a regulatory decision.
It also envisages supreme power for the telecom ministry, which can do anything it likes to rein in the sector, instead Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
As per the amendment, mobile operators have been asked to pay Tk 140 billion for renewing their licences and securing spectrum and the licences are to be renewed after every 15 years.
It was alleged that telecom operators were generating huge unauthrised income every year through illegal call termination by using VoIP and they were also penalised by the country’s telecom regulator for committing such crimes,” he added.
The amendment of the Act not only curb illegal use of VoIP business but also limit the rising mobile crimes. And issuance of call termination operator licences will help generate more employment, he hoped.
Meanwhile, the government was deprived of Tk 5,000 crore as revenue from telecom sector since last 15 years as it allowed use of frequency free of cost among the mobile phone operators.
This was revealed recently when the country’s telecom regulator– BTRC- took initiative to prepare the 3G (third generation) mobile licensing guideline, another high official of telecom ministry said.
“The drainage of the national exchequer was occurred as the private mobile operators had taken such a  privilege in connivance with some dishonest ministry and BTRC officials,” he added.
Negligence of the successive governments was also responsible for such revenue loss, it was alleged.
Ministry sources said the government had awarded licenses to the six mobile operators in 1996.  Apart from the license they were allowed to use 92 megahertz frequency free of cost.
Of the total frequency Grameenphone used 22 megahertz frequency, Rabi 14.8, Banglalink 15, Airtel 15, Teletalk 15.2 and Citycell 10 megahertz.
Later, the country’s telecom regulator in 2008 sold only 22 megahertz of frequency after facing strong criticism from the telecom experts.
Of the total frequency, Grameenphone bought 7.4 megahertz, Rabi 5.0 and Banglalink 5.1 megahertz and the government had earned Tk 2,160 crore from selling the frequency.
“The companies had largely benefited from use of unauthorised frequency without giving revenue to the national exchequer although they had sold it to other companies,” he added.
He said if the government forced them to deposit revenues against the frequency, it can be collected more than Tk 5,200 crore from the rest of 65 megahertz that remained unsold.
When the foreign countries have been charging high revenues for providing frequencies to mobile operators, Bangladesh has provided the facility free of cost which is still a great mystery, he added.
Meanwhile, Mobile, Public Switched Telecom Network (PSTN) and other operators through their organisation, the Association of Mobile Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB), is opposing the proposed amendment and urging the government to review those provisions saying some of the provisions are not investment friendly.
“Some of the provisions in the proposed amendment are unfavourable to our business and may hinder future investment of the growing sector,” said a high official of AMTOB.
He also said the proposed amendment has left no room for any appeal against any regulatory decision by any operator. The draft law allows law enforcers to arrest any official of the telecom industry without a warrant, which is our main concern, said the official.
“We, the six mobile operators, will seek judicial intervention if the ministry does not consider our disquiet regarding the proposed amendment,” he hinted.

 

Via: The New Nation

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