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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Privatising the VoIP service

With the advancement of telecommunications technology, the volume, speed and ease of information transfer over long distances have increased manifold. What is more reassuring is that all these improvements have also been accompanied by appreciable reduction in costs. Of all types of information exchange through telephone, the verbal contact between people is the most widely used and popular mode of communication. But until the advent of digital information technology, the cost of verbal communication was rather high and sometimes prohibitive when it was conducted over long distances. As a result, until recently telephone remained a necessary mode of communication, though with an elitist bias when considered from the point of view of its accessibility among the mass people.However, the barrier that stood between mass people and telephone has been all but removed with the commencement of information superhighway called the Internet and the prospect of voice transfer through this yet new wonder of communication technology. The benefit of voice transfer over the Internet, however, could not reach Bangladesh so easily and instantly. The hurdle that came in the way, as it had most often been the case, was the sluggishness and apathy towards making prompt decision both at the political and bureaucratic level of the administration concerned.As a result, Bangladesh had to wait longer than many of the least developed countries (LDCs) as well as its neighbours to reach the benefit of telephonic communication through the Internet to the people. But to all appearances, this state of forced isolation from the rest of the world so far as the use of internet telephony is concerned, is coming to an end. The Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has finally decided to shed some of its control over telephonic use of the Internet. The first step in this direction came last August when the government approved the International Long Distance Telecommunication Service (ILDTCS) Policy-2007 in order to open up the Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) facility to the private sector.The government's new policy of opening up long distance telephone service to the private sector will not simply pave the way for faster and cheaper communication between expatriate Bangladeshis and their relatives at home. In fact, the government, or the economy for that matter, will also be greatly benefited from this long awaited policy decision. With the service becoming cheaper over very long distances, people will be encouraged to use it on a more massive and frequent scale, thereby bringing more revenue for the government. On the other hand, the step would go a long way to stop the illegal use of the VoIP facility by private operators, which was causing the government to sustain a huge loss in terms of revenue earning.After adoption of the appropriate policy on ILDTs, the government, rather than sitting on it, as was the practice in the past, has now taken the next move to implement it at the earliest opportunity. To involve the private sector in operating VoIP service, the BRTC last Sunday took the necessary step by inviting tender to provide four categories of licenses to the private operators, which include International Gateway (IGW), Intercommunication Exchange (ICX), Internet Exchange (IX) and Internet Protocol (IP) operators. However, the most uplifting aspect of the ILDTS policy to contract out the VoIP service to the private operators is that the business will not be allowed to be done by any foreign owned company. Even companies owned by non-resident Bangladeshis will have no luck in this respect. This is certainly a commendable aspect of privatising the VoIP service so much so that the revenue due to the state from this sector of the telecommunication service may be well protected.
Source: The Financial Express

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