Govt lost 'Tk 225cr to grey mobile market'
Friday, 23 October 2009

The government lost Tk 225 crore in revenue in last fiscal year to illegal import of mobile phones, industry players said at a regional summit in Dhaka.

They identified grey market of mobile phones, uncomfortable tax structure and the poor regulatory environment of Bangladesh as major obstacles to the growth of the industry.

A two-day South Asian Mobile Summit kicked off Wednesday, organised by South Asia Mobile Forum (SAMF), bringing together experts and industry players to address the current needs of the region and the operators.

Global telecom bodies and organisations like GSM Association, Broadband Forum, LIRI, Huawei, ITU, Cellular Operators Association of India, Nepal Telecommunication Authorities, Pakistan Telecommunication Authorities and representatives of other mobile operators are taking part.

Prem Chad, managing director of Nokia East Asia, at a presentation said the operators should also come with more affordable services and devices along with developing localised contents.

"Researches show that 71 percent of a subscription cost goes to service while another 14 percent is spent on handsets and the remaining 15 percent goes to paying taxes."

He added that the government lost Tk 225 crore in revenues to the grey market in the last fiscal year. Asked about the source of the figure by, Chad said it was there own estimate.

He also called for strong collaboration among the industry players like operators, vendors and importers to foster growth.

Everyone is doing what is needed to be done, but in a scattered manner, Chad added.

The Nokia top official for Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan suggested working with government to track the IMEI number of handsets.

"There should be a database of legitimate IMEI number on networks."

The IMEI is a 15-digit number unique to a mobile handset.

Such database would also help to trace a consumer's lost or stolen phone, said Chad.

He also stressed standardising reporting of the subscriber numbers of the country.

On the opportunities of the Bangladeshi market, he said the country is witnessing a strong GDP growth but mobile penetration is still low.

"The opportunity is really good."

However, the regulatory environment in the country was still lagging behind, according to the Nokia official.

"The regulators really need to catch up and support to allow concepts like e-commerce and m-commerce."

The government says the 3G technology guidelines would be approved by early next year.

Earlier, at the inaugural ceremony, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee for telecommunications ministry Hasanul Haque Inu said that the government was working to approve 3G guidelines within March.

On the government's initiative to foster the sector's growth, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission chairman Zia Ahmed said they were trying to connect with a second submarine cable.

He added that an initiative has been taken to make a terrestrial network in South Asia.

Ahmed urged operators to cut call charges and ensure quality of customer service.

He said renewal of mobile operators' licences would be done in a transparent and systematic manner.


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