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App-based calls chip away at IGW business

  • Published at 12:11 am February 18th, 2020
Dhaka Tribune

International call termination was one of the government's key sources for revenue from telecom sector few years back, which has declined drastically

The government and the international gateway (IGW) operators fear that the revenue from international call termination in the country would dry up in future following increase in use of internet-based apps for voice call.

International call termination was one of the government's key sources for revenue from telecom sector few years back, which has declined drastically.

IGW operators, which route the incoming and outgoing international calls through legal channel, said the illegal international call termination and increased use of app-based calling would eat up sizable number of their revenue in the coming years.   

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) in an attempt to save the ailing IGW operators reduced the termination rate last week to $0.006 per minute from previous $0.015 per minute.

BTRC data shows, in July 2017, total International incoming calls were 1966.26 million minutes which declined to 1453.92 million call minutes by June 2018. On the other hand, the total international outgoing call minutes were 16.08 million in July 2017 and 12.82 million in June, 2018.

“Government earning from the IGW operators will fall further due to the shift in technology. Now people use free app for personal and business related overseas communication. As a result, the IGWs are losing their revenue,” Post and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar told Dhaka Tribune on Monday.

He said the government reduced the call rate to boost the IGW operators. “Now after reduction in rate maybe they (IGW) will get some calls but eventually the voice call through traditional channel is dying,” he added. 

In fiscal 2014-15, the government's earnings from international calls were Tk2,075.62 crore, which declined to Tk1,387.37 crore in the following fiscal. 

In 2016-17 fiscal, the government earning from the sector declined to Tk967.63 crore and the earning declined further in 2017-18 fiscal to Tk900.35 crore.

Currently, there are 24 IGW operators, of which, six lost their licences for failing to pay unpaid dues.

“With the increasing penetration of smartphones and mobile broadband coverage, voice calling using free OTTs will rise further in Bangladesh and contribute to the decline of paid incoming international calls. As the hon’ble post and telecom minister has mentioned, OTTs are eating away domestic call volumes from the mobile operators as well,” Mushfique Manzoor, chief operating officer of IGW Operators Forum (IOF), told Dhaka Tribune.

“OTT calls will not wipe out the entire paid international calls but a sizable portion of international incoming calls, mostly business/enterprises who want quality and calls from markets where OTTs are prohibited, will continue to use paid service as long as the price remain competitive,” he added. 

The IOF high up said the number of IGWs licensees steadily declining since 2015 and it came down to 17 million minutes per day last week from 110 million minutes per day in June 2015.