The practise of making illegal voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) calls is costing the country’s legitimate telcos approximately NPR160 million (USD2.3 million) each and every month in lost revenue, the legislative parliament’s Public Account Committee (PAC) has been told. The Himalayan Times reports Rajendra Singh Bhandari, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Nepal Police and head of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), as saying: ‘Illegal VoIP channels are not only eating up huge amount of revenue but also posing serious security threats’, adding, that currently they ‘account for calls worth two million minutes’.
Despite efforts to crack down on illegal VoIP operators in the country – the number of ‘black market’ providers has been cut to around five from 165 previously – the practise is still considered a major headache to the authorities. ‘VoIP poses a threat of organised crime along with revenue loss and other criminal acts,’ said Jay Mukunda Khanal, joint-secretary of the Home Ministry, adding that widespread and indiscriminate distribution of mobile SIM cards by telecoms service providers has exacerbated the problem of controlling crime. To date, only four companies — Nepal Telecom (NT), United Telecom (UT), Spice Nepal Ltd and ATS Telecom — have been granted licences to operate VoIP services in the mountain Kingdom. Under local law, companies found to be breaking the law are liable to legal action under Article 47 of Nepal Doorsanchar Act 1997, which says ‘misusing or doing anything harmful to the telecom system, to its structures, or to its equipment with malicious intent is a crime punishable with a fine equal to the amount claimed for harm caused or five years in jail or both’.