A proposal to cut 50% licence renewal fee of IGW and ICX operators now on the table would cause an annual loss of Tk1.41bn for the national exchequer.
Following a request from the operators, the telecom ministry and the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) are working on the proposal, which is now waiting for the finance ministry approval.
“If the finance ministry approves the proposal, the renewal fees will be adjusted. But when it will be implemented remains a big question,” said a high official of the country’s telecom regulator BTRC.
International Gateway (IGW) and Interconnection Exchange (ICX) currently have been paying Tk75m and Tk25m respectively as annual licence renewal fee since 2008.
If the proposal is implemented, the fee would reduce to Tk37.5m for IGW and Tk12.5m for ICX.
Telecom Minister Sahara Khatun said the number of IGW and ICX operators is big compared to the market size of Bangladesh, which has “made the earning of profit difficult.”
In 2008, there were only seven IGW and ICX operators. Then, the government would get a total of Tk375m as licence fee annually, but it can bag now Tk1.23bn revenue from the sector even if the renewal fee is halved, explained the minister.
There are 29 IGW and 26 ICX operators currently in operation in the country.
A high official at the BTRC’s legal and licensing wing said the minister has no authority to make decision or request on financial issues.
Sahara Khatun, however, replied by saying that it is necessary to review the existing guideline as technology is changing rapidly.
“We need to adapt to changes in technology. Taking care of the business is also important.”
Earlier, Sahara Khatun responded the operators’ request by asking BTRC to make a proposal on slashing the licence renewal fee.
Her recommendation was to slash IGW fee to Tk25m from Tk75m. BTRC, however, proposed cutting it to Tk37.5m.
Meanwhile, the minister deferred the deadline of depositing the renewal fee of the two operators by two months, going beyond her authority.
The last date for depositing licence renewal fee was April 11 this year as per the BTRC guideline while all deadlines ended on August 11.
Sahara Khatun allowed five IGW operators to pay renewal fee in installments against the BTRC rules, the sources said.
Only eight IGW operators paid renewal fee completely by the end of the deadline while seven operators deposited the money partially.
Only four ICX operators made full payment of annual licence fee while 15 operators paid partially. Seven ICX operators didn’t pay any renewal fee.
BTRC prepared a financial report showing Tk1.29bn as outstanding annual licence renewal fee from IGW operators.
The outstanding renewal fee from ICX operators is Tk430m.