Thousands of crores TK drain away through illegal VoIP

The government is incurring a loss of revenue worth thousands of crores Taka every year, owing to the rampant rise in illegal illegal VoIP calls, which also put a dent on the business of the organizations authorized to provide International Gateway services.

Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory commission (BTRC) conducted many operations to stop this illegal business but to no avail.

Chairman of BTRC Jahurul Haque said, “The Commission took several actions against it in october and november. But we are yet to make any breakthrough.”

Director General (Eng. and operations) of BTRC Brig General Mustafa Kamal said, “If only one lac VoIP SIM Cards are used daily, the country incurs a revenue loss worth 2500 crore BDT every year.”

Experts opined that illegal VoIP business has reached even rural areas thanks to the ubiquity of the mobile internet. The regulatory authority and law enforcing agencies seized the equipment from the rural areas in Dhaka and Chittagong.

The issue came to be more evident at times when BTRC slowed down the 3G and 4G Internet in last few years.   

Md. Rezaul Qader, Commissioner of BTRC, said, “The High-Speed Mobile Broadband (3G/4G) speed was slowed down for three consecutive days starting from the day before the recently held national parliamentary election. During that period, the number of international incoming calls rose by 100 percent on average.”

This rise in international incoming calls is partly attributed to the fact that customers were not allowed to call through mobile apps. But, the lion’s share of the calls were caused by the unavailability of illegal VoIP. It implies that the country’s illegal VoIP is rising owing to the 3G and 4G mobile broadbands.

Consequently, the legal businessmen are incurring the loss, the government is shorn of its deserved revenue and the national security is under threat.

Director General (Eng. and operations) of BTRC Brig General Mustafa Kamal also said, “Militants are getting involved in illegal VoIP to catalyze their income. Therefore, the commission is pondering on charges regarding money laundering and other criminal offense in addition to traditional cases.”

Two drives conducted between October and November 2018 revealed that the SIMs of the country’s mobile operators is widely used in illegal VoIP business. Of the 53,000 SIMs confiscated during the drives, 21018 were accounted for by Teletalk and 20709 by Robi, 6602 by banglalink and 4647 by Grameenphone.

In a press conference following the raid, the Chairman of BTRC Jahurul Haque said, “The mobile operators should investigate where their SIM cards are sold, how these are used. They should be accountable to BTRC.”

He also said, “The mobile operators may face legal action under the telecom act.” The government recently announced the international and internal call rates. As per this announcement, minimum internal call rates stood at 45 paisa per second where the tax amount of international call is 33 Paisa per second. Consequently, those involved are getting more inclined to run the VoIP business in the guise of internal calls than international incoming calls.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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