Foreign VoIP operator given small fine; big players yet to face action

5 Jul 2007

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has received USD25,000 in fines from a Canadian company, N-Tel Communications, for providing illegal international VoIP telephony services. The Commission’s chairman Manzurul Alam told journalists that stern action would be taken against telecoms service providers for any wrongdoing. He added that the regulator was working on amendments to the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act 2001 to incorporate tougher punishment for operators involved in illegal activities. Despite the small penalty imposed on N-Tel, a licensed fixed line operator with an interconnection agreement with incumbent BTTB, the larger players accused of involvement in illegal IP telephony operations are yet to hand over any money in fines. Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) politician and businessman, Helal Khan, is reportedly due to stand trial on 1 August in connection with illegal VoIP centres in Dhaka and other major cities. Khan was ordered to shut down the alleged illegal VoIP operations of his ISP company Western Network, said to have operated between 2001 and 2006. According to local reports the charge carries a possible fine of around USD16 million. However, the BTRC is yet to take action against domestic cellcos GrameenPhone, AKTEL, Banglalink and City Cell, which were all recently discovered to have illegal VoIP exchanges situated on their premises in raids carried out by the country’s Rapid Action Battalion.