GrameenPhone has agreed to pay a fine of BDT2.5 billion (USD37 million) to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) for its involvement in illegal call termination via VoIP technology, reports local paper the Daily Star. This is the second penalty for unlicensed VoIP telephony provision that the regulator has levied on the country’s leading mobile operator; the Telenor subsidiary earlier paid the watchdog BDT1.7 billion in ‘compensation’ for lost government earnings due to the illegal practice. GrameenPhone has already paid BDT500 million of the most recent fine and has agreed to hand over the balance by October. Most of the country’s other privately owned telecoms operators have also incurred fines for involvement in the unlicensed VoIP market, including cellcos Citycell, AKTEL and Banglalink.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, VoIP licences are finally set to be awarded in Bangladesh this year under the BTRC’s International Long Distance Telecommunication Services Policy 2007. Following the licensing of private sector international voice/internet gateway and interconnection exchange operators in February 2008 (breaking the legal monopoly of state-run telco BTCL), the final stage of the Policy is to enable private sector local access network operators to offer direct services, including VoIP, to end-users. Licensed ISPs, domestic telecoms providers and foreign joint ventures will all be entitled to IP telephony licences (all of which were excluded from the gateway/exchange licence auctions due to their widespread involvement in illegal VoIP traffic).