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Murtoza Ali Quader ID: 061213045 ETE 405 (1)
Limitations & the effect of the current VoIP policy in Bangladesh
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is the routing of a voice conversation over the internet or through an IP based network. The development in the technology is being fuelled by the convergence of the telecommunications, information and television industries. With new service applications, and the expanded capabilities for global commerce, the traditional PSTN operators in many countries are moving to new IP centric networks, to stay in the game except Bangladesh because here the BTCL is the main PSTN operator which is run by PSTN backbone that has many limitations. They don’t want to move advance IP centric network and they don’t let others to introduce it. As a result BTCL is dealing with the dilemma of loosing revenue to illegal VoIP service providers, including illegal international operators such as Skype and Vonage. So what is VoIP? Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is the routing of a voice conversation over the internet or through an IP based network. The term “VoIP Services” is used loosely to cover a range of publicly available voice services using VoIP technology. This includes: -Voice over broadband (VoB) such as international private lease circuits -Voice over digital subscriber loop (DSL) -Voice over Wireless Local Area Network -IP telephony or voice over IP based networks VoIP is integrated with other services (e.g. data, video) that are available on the internet.
In Bangladesh VoIP is using for long distance call for such a long time but our so call engineers of BTCL didn’t knew that till 2000. And this so call engineers are making the VoIP policy for Bangladesh. Now most of the communication is on IP base communication. And in National Telecommunications Policy, 1998 and in Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001, there is no mention of VoIP. That’s why the Cabinet decides to open VoIP in the private sector on 23 October 2003. But unfortunately the Cabinet decision could not be implemented. As a result illegal VoIP operators in Bangladesh were made their fortune at that time. Most of the illegal VoIP operators are back by high ups of Government and run by powerful businessman it’s very difficult to capture them. As a result the powerful illegal 1|Page
internet telephony operators keep on draining out hundreds of crores taka each year, while the government is delaying the process of awarding license for VoIP operation on various pretexts ignoring a fresh recommendation of BTCL. Meanwhile, the number of illegal VoIP operation across the country has reached several thousand, according to some market operators. The evidence of their growth was marked in the report of an international telecom research organization, known as Telegeography. The report states that in 2004, Bangladesh was the third fastest growing destination for international VoIP traffic. Brazil and Nigeria led the world in growth last year, with 112 percent and 103 percent. Bangladesh marked a growth of 97 percent. Globally, VoIP traffic grew by 35 percent in 2004. But finally in 2007 “INTERNATIONAL LONG DISTANCE TELECOMMUNICATION SERVICES (ILDTS) POLICY-2007” was made. But this policy made by so call engineers of BTCL. And these people think voice and data are totally different things. And while making this policy they thought about their own benefits. Now I’ll give you an example of how BTCL losing lots of money because of this so call policy making engineers. It is obvious that VoIP is the reality of future telephony. The cost effective VoIP solution will continue to attract more people in the year to come. Unfortunately our policy maker could not see this. BTTB's income in the year 2005-06 was 13,300 million Bangladeshi taka with only 1.07 million users. This revenue figure is the lowest compared to last few years. This drop is caused by excellent cellular network of Bangladesh and illegal VoIP businesses. Now, if BTCL had 45.21 million VoIP users they could earn much higher with monthly low fixed charge. 45.21 million is the current number of users in cellular world of Bangladesh. That clearly indicates there is a high demand for telephony in Bangladesh. With such rapid growth of users BTCL should not have any concern regarding their income target and return on investment in VoIP infrastructure. According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), every day some three crore international calls are entering. Of the calls, Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) terminates some 1.40 crore calls and the rest 1.60 crore calls are dealt by the VoIP traders. And that’s how BTCL are losing lots of money.
By reviewing the ILDTS Policy-2007 one can easily see that The VoIP policy of Bangladesh is almost same as the PSTN policy. In PSTN the call comes from outside received by IGW. That is known as International gateway. Then IGW serves call to ICX, which is the exchange. Then exchange serves calls to the operators. Like GP, Citycell, Banglalink etc. Now for VOIP ICX is not used. Alternative of that ISP is used. Data comes from abroad through submarine cable And data come from IIG to ISP through VSAT. Everything is controlled by BTRC. This is the regulatory board. This is the policy maker. And who is playing monopoly business along with local businessman who runs the IGW in Bangladesh. The BTRC gave 4 IGW license and instead of making a competition among them, which may decrease the call rate, but the BTRC made the policy in such a way that 2|Page
each IGW gets 25% of total communication. IGW got 87% revenue with government and 13% is received by the owner. That is how the policy is going on. And this is totally opposite of public interest. And it fall between to provide low cost international telecommunication services.
IGWs were handling 12 million minutes of calls a day while BTCL was handling 20 million, till December 2008. Another 40% of the VoIP Calls is handling by the black market. Actually this VoIP policy encourages people to invest on illegal VoIP business. As there is hardly any regulatory committee, anyone can launch a VoIP service by spending only Tk 2.5 lakh, which might cost some more depending on the volume of the VoIP exchange. IGWs are charging 4 cents for handling each international call, while VoIP black market price is at most 2.5 cents on an average. Thus the government is losing around Tk 1208.88 crore revenue per year due to international call termination through illegal VoIP.
August 5th, 2009 on a function Chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), Zia Ahmed said “As many as 32 local internet service providers will be awarded IP telephony licenses, opening up voice calls through internet protocol (VoIP), usage of which prohibited in Bangladesh just a few days back.” And these 32 local internet service providers are ACME Communications Ltd., Adams Telecom Ltd., Aliance Holdings Ltd., AML Infotech Ltd., Axiom Interconnect Ltd., Aziz Trade & Engineering Ltd, Bangla Trac, Communication Confidence Steel Limited, DBL Telecom Ltd., Gateway Dhaka Ltd., Getco Telecommunications Ltd., Goldcrest Holding Ltd., Imam Network Limited ,Inland Telecom Ltd., Intesa Communication M & H Telecom, Mango Teleservices Ltd., Mir Telecom, Mobileway International Ltd., Mostafa Communications Ltd., Netex Telecom, Precision Networks Limited, Project Builders Ltd., Royal Green Infotec Ltd., Sigma Engineers Limited, Signal 7 Ltd., Standard Group Limited, Technovista Limited, Teleport Bangladesh Ltd., Telesat Trinco Limited, United Enterprises & Co. Ltd., Universal Network Company and Xylink Networks. Now my question why you just award this license to only local ISP? Why there is a boundary? Most of the ISP provider in Bangladesh is not financially solvent, so it’ll be very tough for some ISP to introduce this service. On the other hand, if license is open for all than lots of people will show interest to take the license which will help the economical growth of Bangladesh.
In Bangladesh the VoIP policy was made by inappropriate people those who haven’t have enough idea about it. That’s why this VoIP policy is not suitable on road of digital Bangladesh. In this policy the government has been trying to encourage people to stick to its traditional telephone network. They have been cutting down 3|Page
the consumer's bill by reducing the charges. However, we have seen the traditional telephone network will never be able to allow cheaper rate compared to VoIP network. Rather the government itself can go for VoIP businesses in different form. Moreover, recently it is found by the GSM Association (GSMA) that the Bangladesh government protects the BTRC's monopoly over international phone call business. Thus foreign investors are least interested to inject fund in the country's telecom sector.
We have connected ourselves to the information superhighway via submarine cable. Unfortunately we are in the superhighway with a rickshaw. And if the VoIP isn’t legalizing for international call termination we’ll continue our journey on the superhighway with a rickshaw. The BTRC will award only 32 VoIP license to the local ISP, just to exchange call in the boundary of Bangladesh. To make international call they will still have to pass through IGW.
VoIP installation and maintenance can be based on software rather than hardware. Thus the system is more robust and easy to upgrade. Beside these, VoIP promises with lots of job opportunities in Bangladesh, especially for the women. For example, call centers, which is enabled via VoIP. Also Lots of technically sound man power is needed. People needed for management, improvement, new layout design, Observations. By legalizing VoIP for both national and international call, Bangladesh will be benefited in several ways. Significant cost saving in the government, private and home telephone bills would definitely make a mark in the economy. In the world of globalization, unlimited long distance calls are desired to take the home businesses to the global market. VoIP is the cheapest solution to take your voice to the world business community. It will create new business, jobs, new era in communication. So VoIP is a blessing to our people. So I hope the government of Bangladesh will appoint some expert people to upgrade the VoIP policy of Bangladesh.
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