BTRC approves 6 local firms to launch app-based voice call service


App-based calling through foreign apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Messenger is already popular in the country

The telecom regulator is going to allow six IP telephony companies to launch app-based voice call services amid opposition from the mobile phone operators.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) took the decision last month to issue the approval letters to the firms, who are known as internet protocol telephony service providers (IPTSPs), soon.

App-based calling through foreign apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, and Messenger is already popular in the country.

The companies to get the approval are BTS Communications, Race Online, System Solution and Technology, AND Telecom, Agni Systems and state-owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Ltd.

Earlier in 2017, the BTRC gave permission to Inter Cloud, an IPTSP company, to launch app-based voice call service. The company launched an app named Brilliant.

Following in the footsteps of Inter Cloud success, the BTRC in 2018 gave permission to another five companies for launching new app-based calling services. These companies — Ambar IT, BDCOM Online, MetroNet Bangladesh, Link-3 Technologies, and ICC Communications, however,  have not hit the market yet.

The mobile phone companies have been opposing the BTRC move, saying it will go against their business interests.  

Presently, there are 41 IPTSP companies in the country; and gradually all the companies might get the permit to operate their own app-based voice call services, a BTRC official said.

However, Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh terms the BTRC decision unfair.

“The mobile network operators have invested billions of dollars for purchasing radio frequency; building their network; and providing voice and data services to their customers. The licensing condition applicable to IPTSPs  has been limited to fixed telephony services; however, but apps permission with calling out facilities gives them mobility along with a free ride on MNOs network,” AMTOB Secretary General Brig Gen SM Farhad (Retd.) told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

“We requested for ‘same service same rule’. The mobile industry placed its concern in a report format back on 23rd June 2019; but we are yet to receive any reply or update. MNOs are licensees of BTRC; and we expect fair treatment, on the part of the regulator, to all licensees as per the regulatory framework,” he added.