POST TIME: 30 July, 2019 12:45:24 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 30 July, 2019 04:24:43 PM
GP, Robi, Banglalink, Teletalk fined again for illegal VoIP
BTRC penalises 4 mobile operators Tk 21.90 crore collectively

GP, Robi, Banglalink, Teletalk 
fined again for illegal VoIP

Bangladesh Tele­commu­ni­cation Regulatory Commi­­ssion (BTRC) has slapped mobile operators Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk with a collective fine of Tk. 21.90 crore for call terminations through illegal Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Even after biometric registration, which was done to safeguard the telecoms against such illegal operations, SIMs of those mobile phone operators were used to terminate calls through illegal VoIP.

The government is incurring losses in revenue worth thousands of crore of takas every year on account of the rampant rise in illegal VoIP calls, which has also dented the business of the organisations authorised to provide international gateway services.

Consequently, those doing business legally are incurring a loss, the government is being deprived of the revenue it deserves, and national security, too, is imperilled, said the experts on the sector.

The BTRC team found 2,350 Grameenphone SIMs that were used for illegal VoIP call terminations. It also found 16,069 SIMs of Robi, 731 SIMs of Banglalink and 28,487 SIMs of Teletalk that were used for illegal call terminations through VoIP.

Most of those SIMs were registered with the operators using fake biometric information, sources involved with the probe told The Independent.

By allowing their SIMs to be used for illegal call terminations through VoIP, the operators have violated the provisions of Sections 63, 64 and 65 of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Act, 2001, and, hence, they, too, are responsible for those illegal activities, said the BTRC.

Talking to The Independent, BTRC chairman Jahrul Haque said, “We have taken a very hard stand against illegal call terminations through VoIP. That’s why we imposed fines on the mobile operators when we found out that their SIMs were used for illegal call terminations,” he said.

On July 16, the BTRC sent four separate letters to these four telecom operators. The letter was signed by Sharmin Sultana, deputy director (enforcement and inspection) of the BTRC, and explained why the mobile operators were fined and how many of their SIMs were used for illegal call terminations.

The telecom regulator fined Grameenphone Tk 4,187.50 against each of 2,350 SIMs, which in toto stood at Tk 98,40,625.

The BTRC fined Robi Tk 4,187.50 against each of 9,893 SIMs and Tk 5,000 against each of 6,176 SIMs, which in toto stood at Tk 7,23,06,937.50.

Banglalink was fined Tk 4,187.50 against each of 631 SIMs and Tk 5,000 against each of 100 SIMS, which stood at Tk 31,42,312.50 in toto.

State-run telecom operator Teletalk was fined Tk 4,187.50 against each of 10,624 SIMs and Tk 5,000 against each of 17,863 SIMs, which stood at Tk 13,38,03,000 in toto. All the operators were given a 10-day period to pay the fine, said the BTRC letter.

Officials with the telecom regulator said they had unearthed these illegal operations of VoIP through its pin-point location (PPL) technology from March last year till July this year.

Talking with The Independent, a BTRC official explained that PPL technology enabled the telecom regulator to precisely find out the locations of those illegal SIM boxes used for VoIP call terminations.

The government brought in a new US technology last year to detect the exact locations of the SIM boxes that are used for illegal termination of VoIP calls. The technology is provided by Pennsylvania-based LATRO Services.

LATRO uses Versalytics geo-location information processes to zero in on suspected SIM box devices as part of its advanced detection algorithms. In addition, the integrated Google Earth visualization capability provides insights into operators and regulators, helping to enforce legal strategies against bypass devices.

During investigation, they found that those illegal calls were mostly coming from the US, Europe and Australia.

Talking with The Independent, Brig. Gen. (retd) SM Farhad, secretary-general of the Association of Mobile Telephone Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB), told The Independent, “Mobile network operators have zero tolerance for illegal call terminations and proactively take all necessary measures to prevent illegal use of VoIP calls.”

“As per directives, we ensure proper subscriber registration through the biometric verification process. However, if biometrically registered subscribers use their connections for illegal purposes or registered SIMs are collected by fraudsters through alternative means, such as mugging, theft or forgery, it is beyond the capacity of the MNOs to proactively prevent a SIM from being used for VoIP purposes,” pointed out Farhad.

“However, any SIM detected by our system as engaged in VoIP call termination is immediately barred. Most of the confiscated MSISDNs had already been detected and barred through our self-regulation process. We are in discussion with the regulator on this issue,” he added.

Shahed Alam, Chief Corporate & Regulatory Officer of Robi Axiata Limited, said, “It is unfortunate that mobile operators have been blamed for VoIP calls, whereas, mobile operators are victims of such evasive call termination by unlicensed and illegal operators. As a licensed operator, our financial losses from VoIP calls are well documented.”

Earlier, in September last year, the  BTRC seized 10,947 SIM cards from Dhaka, of which 5,075 SIMs were of Teletalk, 3,897 of Robi, 1,414 of Grameenphone, 426 of Banglalink and 120 of private land line operator Rankstel. BTRC said the drives saved the country Tk 867 crore.

In October 2007, Grameenphone was fined Tk 168.40 crore for the illegal VoIP business. In November the same year, the erstwhile Aktel, now Robi, was also fined Tk. 145 crore for its involvement in the illegal VoIP business.