Mobile phone users formed a human chain protesting this newly introduced call rate
The sudden increase in the call rate of mobile phones, coming without prior discussion with stakeholders, has increased the expenses of consumers and raised questions about the legality of the hike.
From the early hours of August 14, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) implemented the new tariff rate, which ranges from Tk0.45 to Tk2 per minute, scrapping the previous on-net and off-net floor prices of Tk0.25 and Tk0.60 respectively.
Mobile phone users formed a human chain protesting this newly introduced call rate.
Bangladesh Mobile Phone Consumer Association, a platform of mobile phone users, held the program in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka on Saturday.
The president of the association, Mohiuddin Ahmmed, told the Dhaka Tribune, “The telecommunication regulator has increased call rates with only the interest of operators in mind. We believe that before the implementation of this decision, they should have taken the opinions of consumers into consideration.”
“The implementation of this decision will increase the expenses of consumers, and has been enforced upon them without any vetting. This is undemocratic and immoral,” he added.
Mohiuddin also said although the operators might initially make profits as a result of this price hike, if their clients find alternate ways to communicate, they will lose a large amount of business.
Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) central leader Rajekuzzaman Ratan said: “This new call rate will cause consumers to cumulatively lose an additional Tk6,000 crore annually. I implore the government to reconsider this new call rate as soon as possible.”
Communist Party of Bangladesh leader Ruhin Hossain Prince alleged that the government took the initiative to bear the expenses of the upcoming national elections.
“We hope the government will backtrack on this undemocratic decision,” he said.
Domestic mobile operators Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, and Teletalk used to charge customers a minimum Tk0.25 per minute for on-net calls, while for off-net calls, customers were charged a minimum Tk0.60 per minute. Following the introduction of the new rate, the minimum rates for on-net and off-net calls has been set at Tk0.45.
In its directive, BTRC also barred mobile operators from offering separate tariffs for on-net and off-net phone calls.
Under BTRC’s new directive, the interconnecting charge for one operator to another operator is Tk0.14 per minute, including Tk0.04 for the Interconnection Exchange (ICX) operator and Tk0.10 for the terminating operator.
The rest of the call tariff, whether Tk0.45 or Tk2, is kept by the originating operator.
Apart from mobile phone operators, the new rate is also applicable for Internet Protocol Telephony Service Provider (IPTSP), public switched telephone network (PSTN), and ICX operators.
All regular and promotional packages, offers, and bundles which would contradict the new directive, have become invalid automatically.
According to BTRC, the country has 150.9 million active mobile phone connections as of June 2018, of which Grameenphone has 69.2 million, Robi 44.7 million, Banglalink 33.3 million and Teletalk 3.75 million.
BTRC acting chairman Md Jahurul Haque said the government made extensive calculations before taking this decision.
He admitted that the cost for on-net calls might increase, but their cost for off-net calls would decrease.
“This will give operators with less clients a fighting chance by creating a level playing field,” he added.