The government is expected to earn at least Tk. 1,200 crore revenue, each year, with the issuance of legal licences for voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, an official of Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said. To stop illegal use of VoIP, the telecom regulator has already invited applications for VoIP service provider (VSP) licences for international call transport.
The VSP licensees will bring international calls to Bangladesh, through international gateways (IGW), and take them to customers, via telecom providers.
Referring to the latest available data, an official with the legal and licensing department of the BTRC said a total of 5.34 crore minutes of international calls were being terminated daily in Bangladesh, of which over 1.50 crore minutes were being terminated by illegal VoIP operators at present.
Annually, this amounted to a loss of about Tk. 1,500 crore in revenue for the government, the official noted, adding that with the issuance of VSP licences, at least 80 per cent of the calls, previously being terminated illegally, are expected to be brought under legal channels.
Talking to The Independent, Maj-Gen. Zia Ahmed, chairman of the BTRC, said the telecom ministry would finalise the number of licences to be issued. “Earlier, the plan was to issue around 3,000 licences, but, now, with the issuance of 29 international gateway (IGW) licences, the number might have increased,” he added.
Ahmed said anyone can apply for a VSP licence. The application fee for a licence has been fixed at Tk. 5,000, while licence fee and annual licence fee had been fixed at Tk. 5 lakh and Tk. 1 lakh, respectively. Licensees would have to share 10 per cent of their total revenue with the government, he said. “The regulator will receive application, from September 2 to September 6, this year,” added Ahmed.
The BTRC chairman said that the number of illegal call terminations would decrease, as VSP licensees would have to carry their calls through the IGW. “With IGW having all call data records (CDR), the number of calls, terminated by the VSP operators, can be easily tracked down,” he added.
Admitting that all illegal call terminations cannot be thwarted with the issuance of VSP licences, he said, “Several small operators are terminating international calls with a small hidden set-up, comprising a channel box, a quantum gateway, and a SIM card. It’s hard to stop such operations, unless strict SIM registration process is enforced.”
Meanwhile, experts in the field have welcomed the government initiative to legalise VoIP, by issuing VSP licences.
Dr Satyaprasad Majumdar, a professor of telecommunication engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said people in Bangladesh had a misconception about VoIP. “VoIP is actually a more modern, sophisticated and cost-effective way of making international calls,” he added.
Elaborating on VoIP, he said, “It’s a collection of transmission technologies, which make voice communication possible over the Internet. It is primarily designed for voice communication, but its protocol can also serve other technologies like video and fax.”
The VoIP protocol helps conversion of voice into a digital signal, which can be sent over the Internet. These signals are then compressed and translated into IP (internet protocol) packets for transmission. They are converted to a regular telephone signal, if the user is calling on a normal phone, Dr Majumdar said.
“It means, it is a technology that enables a personal computer to make telephone calls,” he added.
The use of this technology simply involves downloading and installing a VoIP software like Skype, purchasing low-cost VoIP cards from the local market or online, using the number on the card for verification, and then dialling the required telephone number from the PC, he said. He added that VoIP uses a packet-switched network though the Internet. As opposed to VoIP, traditional international calls through phones use a circuit-switched network. “Packet-switching allows several calls to occupy the same amount of resources that is occupied by only one in a circuit-switched network. As a result, traditional telephony providers charge more than VoIP providers,” he said.
The main benefit of VoIP is cost reduction, he said. It saves around 30 per cent to 50 per cent of traditional phone bills, and sometimes even more. And since VoIP is done exclusively through the Internet, it does away with the phone lines and expensive networks that other phones require, he added.
Dr Majumdar said that, with the issuance of VSP licences, which would make international call termination with VoIP legal, people can now make more international calls at a lower rate. “The number of outgoing international calls has shown a steady increase over the years, with the number of expatriates on the rise. The issuance of VSP licences would not only benefit the callers, but, also, the government as it is, would jack up the revenue,” he added.
-With The Independent input