The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has approved a proposal of the international gateway operators to form a cartel to control the international call termination business. The cartel, International Gateway Operators Forum or IOF, will consist of all the IGW operators where four politically influential IGWs and three large IGWs will be controlling the internetwork operating system switch for terminating the calls, said the BTRC approval.
BTRC chairman Sunil Knati Bose signed the approval and sent it to the IOF in a hurried move on Monday, said BTRC officials.
They said a ruling party-backed controversial businessman, who was much criticised for his role in 2010 share market scam, was facilitating the IGW cartel with the scheme.
The BTRC officials said according to the proposal of the IOF, a superior tier, consist of the seven IGWs, will be running the IOS system switch whereas the other regular IGWs will have to route calls through the IOS.
They said the seven operators, who will run the IOS system switch, will get higher revenue share than the regular member IGWs as per the proposal of the IOF.
The seven IGW operators are Unique Infoway, Digicon Telecommunication, Mirtel Ltd, Bangla Trac Communications, NovoTel, Roots Communication and Global Voice telecom.
‘It is highly risky as far as fair competition is concerned,’ a senior BTRC official told New Age on Tuesday.
He said according to the telecom law the BTRC was responsible for maintaining competitive business environment among the operators.
‘If such a cartel is formed, then the entire international call termination business will be centralised and the cartel will be controlling the pricing of calls,’ he said.
He also said such model of IGW business was implemented in Pakistan but the country’s court and competition regulator suspended the process after the country witnessed huge fall in legal call volume.
Another BTRC official said that the same cartel lobbied with government high-ups and lowered the call termination rate to 1.5 cents from previous 3 cents.
‘They also lowered the government revenue share from the business and raised the revenue portion of the IGW
operators. Now the cartel is lobbying for getting a retrospective effect of the lower rates from July 1,’ he said.
The BTRC in a directive said that the IOF should inform about the formation of its executive committee to the commission and all the decision taken by the committee as well.
It also said the BTRC would analyse the revenue sharing method of the superior tier and the regular member IGWs and decide about the issue later.
The BTRC directive also said that the IOF had to audit its account and give detail information about the market development expenses.
The telecom regulator also said that the IOF had to set up a Common CDR Analyzing System to the BTRC which would allow the commission to crosscheck the call volume terminating through the IOS and IGWs.
The BTRC, however, said that the IOF could only make the deeds with other IGWs after the telecom ministry approved the proposal and BTRC gave another final directive on the issue.
The IGW operators of Pakistan in 2012, following a government directive, formed a similar cartel which drew a huge controversy. The Competition Commission of Pakistan later suspended the ICH with the help of Supreme Court.
-With New Age input