Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has invited bids to operate international telecoms services by the private entities Sunday. It will issue licenses for two interconnection exchanges (ICX) and three licenses of International Gateway (IGW) facilities. The ICX will be linked with the IGW.
The fixed and mobile operators’ outbound calls will first terminate in one of the six ICX. Then the calls will be processed in the IGW followed by getting routed to the overseas destinations via BTTB’s submarine cable station. Similar path will be followed for the inbound overseas calls.
BTRC will host a pre-bid meeting on November 5, 2007 and the offers will be received on or before 12:00 PM of November 22, 2007.
The industry has been demanding competition in this segment but the political governments have never showed respect to this. Even the BNP-led four party alliance government had ordered to end BTTB’s monopoly in a cabinet meeting in 2003.
But the regulator has not taken any move to materialise it. This delay has rather helped the mushrooming of illegal international call termination outfits. Siblings and offspring of the powerful quarters flexed political muscles and operated such illegal outfits right under the authorities’ nose.
The fixed mobile telephone operators along with numerous BTTB officials also joined the bonanza of enormous windfall. These factors are blamed for the deliberately belated liberalisation of international telecoms gateway.
Once the licenses are awarded, the very last barrier to liberalise the country’s telecoms sector will be removed. State-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) has been enjoying the monopoly over international gateway.
But the success of current liberalisation move is facing questions for various reasons.
No foreign company or foreign joint venture will qualify to apply for IGW or ICX license, BTRC chairman categorically told the media in a press conference on August 17, 2007. Even the non-resident Bangladeshis’ business outfits are not eligible either.
“Only the companies fully owned by resident Bangladeshi citizens are qualified for these international telecoms licenses.” He also said fixed or mobile phone operators also cannot contest in this race. But the state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) gets the ICX as well as the IGW licenses by default being the country’s incumbent international telecoms monopoly.
All these provisions are the result of the International Long Distance Telecommunication Services (ILDTS) Policy-2007 which has been enacted without public consultation. This policy also remains undisclosed and the authorities are reluctant to reveal the reason behind such secrecy.