The Bangladeshi government has formed a new committee to investigate illegal voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) call termination, which it suspects is behind a ‘huge’ drop in international incoming call revenues of state-run Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd (BTCL). The six-member committee, led by the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), will investigate whether any international gateway, interconnection exchange or international internet gateway is linked with unlicensed VoIP call termination and if so, what to do to combat the practice. A government official told bdnews24.com that ‘most’ of the illegal calls were received by telephone numbers on the network of state-owned mobile operator Teletalk, and that BTCL’s international gateway was being used for their routing.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that the BTRC revoked the licences of five out of 13 fixed line providers in the country for involvement in illegal VoIP call provision in May 2010. The state’s crackdown on illegal VoIP had begun in December 2006 when state agencies raided telecoms firms, resulting in mobile operators GrameenPhone, Banglalink, Robi Axiata and CityCell paying the government a total of BDT8.4 billion (USD110 million) in compensation for lost revenues caused by VoIP activities by August 2008. In May 2010 GrameenPhone, Banglalink, CityCell and another cellco, Warid (now Airtel) – joined a system to automatically detect (and disconnect) mobile numbers that are being used for illegal international call terminations via VoIP. After years of delays, in August 2009 the BTRC began issuing Internet Protocol Telephony Service Provider (IPTSP) licences exclusively to internet service providers (ISPs), and by the end of September 2011 it had issued 30 nationwide IPTSP concessions. However, the VoIP permits are only to be issued to existing Bangladesh-based ISPs, while all of the country’s fixed line/fixed-wireless and mobile network operators are barred from receiving concessions (including ISP subsidiaries of the operators).