The increase in the use of OTT (Over-the-Top) apps has put a stop to international call termination, irrespective of whether it is illegal call through VoIP or through legal channel.
This vast use of free apps (Viber, WatsApp, Imo, Skype etc) is resulting in Bangladesh’s loss of revenue in international voice call business and BTRC is considering ‘measures’ on OTT apps soon.
BTRC Chairman Dr Shahjahan Mahmood said it on Friday at a press conference, organised to explain the real scenario of the international call termination, at BTRC premise, reports agencies.
“We want to make a decision over the voice call services of those OTT apps within a month or two,” he said.
Dr Mahmood said, “People in Bangladesh receive average 70 million minutes daily. The amount was 120 million minutes before the hike in call termination rate from 1.5 cents to 2 cents per minute in August 2015.”
However, the BTRC chief does not think the hike in call rate is the main reason behind the shrinking number of calls.
Asked what steps the government has taken to counter it, Mahmood said, "No guideline on this matter has been made yet. We are trying to see examples in other countries. Some of the countries have declared those illegal while some others have allowed only data services, not voice calls."
"We have just begun to think about the matter. We will take a decision on it within a month or two," Mahmood added.
The number of global smartphone users will cross 3.9 billion by the end of 2016, forecasts Ericsson. It was around 2 billion in 2014.
At least, 45 per cent of the smartphone users use OTT apps. The size of OTT business will be over $62 billion by 2020, according to a forecast by market analysts Markets and Markets.
The BTRC chief did not mention any figure to say how much loss in revenue the government has incurred due to illegal VoIP connections and OTT apps.
However, bdnews24.com, on a report on this issue said market analysts says the country incurs losses of Tk 20 million daily.
The government is not the sole victim of the situation. Mobile-phone operators and International Internet Gateway (IIG) operators are also losing share of profits to the OTT apps.
The mobile-phone operators are trying to cover the loss by charging for data for using those apps.
Referring to their move of allowing maximum two hours from the existing four hours to deactivate any SIM detected for VoIP, he said BTRC is working relentlessly to curb the illegal VoIP and willing to take actions against those involved in “the illicit job", reports state owned BSS news agency.
About the media reports that mentioned the BTRC as news sources, the Mahmood said, "Only BTRC secretary and I myself are the authorised persons to disseminate any information. That's why I strongly stated that those media reports have no relation with the BTRC."
In the media reports, the state-owned operator Teletalk has also been presented for its alleged involvement with VoIP.
Post and Telecommunications Secretary Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, who is also the Chairman of Teletalk Board of Directors, said as a state-owned entity, Teletalk was not shown any mercy for any illegal involvement.
He said if anyone makes VoIP using SIM of any operator including Teletalk, the concern operator would be responsible for the crime.
About the financial penalty that is yet to pay by the operator, Faizur said as Teletalk is state owned it can adjust financial debt with the government if they fail to pay debt.
BTRC Vice Chairman Ahsan Habib Khan, other commissioners and high officials, among others, were present at the press conference.