The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has submitted a proposal to the government to increase mobile call rates despite comments from the Post and Telecommunications Minister Tarana Halim in June suggesting that call rates could go down.
The proposal was returned to the BTRC for reconsideration, but the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (Amtob) has claimed the BTRC had not consulted the industry before sending its request.
The BTRC submitted the proposal to the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunication and Information Technology after a recent meeting suggested increasing the minimum call rate, decreasing call rates from one operator to another, and reducing the maximum call rate from Tk2 to Tk1.50.
The Ministry, however, asked the BTRC to reconsider. A senior BTRC official said: “The proposal sent in is not final. There is space in the proposal to discuss the increase in call rates.”
The BTRC proposal would increase charges to customers for talking within their operator’s network, and decrease costs for communicating with users of other operators.
However, there are concerns that this will raise revenues for bigger operators and reduce returns for smaller operators, since users of bigger operators usually communicate within those networks.
Tarana Halim had said on June 20 that mobile call rates could be further reduced, even though Bangladesh is second on the list of countries with the cheapest call rates.
While answering a fellow MP, Tarana said that the current minimum call rate was Tk0.25 and the maximum was Tk2.
Amtob director TIM Nurul Kabir told the Bangla Tribune that the regulator had proposed an increase in call rates without first consulting his members, the operators.
“Nowhere else are call rates increased without speaking to the operators first. We want to have our input be heard before a proposal is drafted,” he said.
Despite Amtob’s concerns, some operators have already expressed their support of the move while others have begun estimating likely increases in revenue after the changes. According to those estimates, Grameenphone’s revenue will increase substantially, while state-owned Teletalk will face falling revenues.
A telecommunications expert, on condition of anonymity, told the Bangla Tribune that there were a few factors behind the decision.
“Mobile operators were not getting the spectrum that they need, while spectrum allocations were expensive as well. The increase in call rates would be seen as an incentive to purchase more spectrum allocation with the increased revenue,” he said.
The expert also said that fourth generation (4G) network auctions would take place soon. The operators would also potentially need the extra revenue to be able to bid in the auction.
They also said that the decrease in International Gateway (IGW) call rates might have been a driving force behind the recent proposal.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune