Bdnews24.com reports that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will start issuing new licences for international voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) telephony by April 2012. BTRC chairman Zia Ahmed told Bdnews24 yesterday that the telecoms ministry recently sent the ‘finalised’ draft licensing policy to the regulator for final scrutiny, and that, subsequently, ‘applications for licences will be invited after finalising the policy within two to two-and-a-half months.’ The decision to issue VoIP licences was reached after a review meeting called by the prime minister on telecoms fees was held on 9 August 2011, and the government formed a special committee on 1 December to investigate illegal international VoIP call termination, which according to BTRC statistics, accounts for around ten million minutes of (largely incoming) voice calls per day in Bangladesh. It also estimates that the government loses BDT50 million (USD587,000) in potential revenues every day due to illegal VoIP. In the legal sector, around 40 million total incoming/outgoing minutes of calls are legally made per day, the regulator calculates. The committee is scheduled to submit its report at the end of this month.
The government’s new draft VoIP policy – ahead of any modification from the BTRC – forbids licensed operators from connecting ‘more than 90 calls’ simultaneously, presumably in an attempt to limit the impact of increased competition on state-run incumbent telco Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd (BTCL). The draft policy sets the licence application fee at BDT5,000 and the licence authorisation fee at BDT500,000, plus a bank guarantee of BDT250,000. Licensees must hand over 20% of annual earnings to the state while the yearly licence renewal fee is BDT10,000.