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BANGLADESH GOVT FINES GRAMEENPHONE FOR VOIP SCAM
DHAKA, Aug 15, 2008 (AsiaPulse via COMTEX) --
GrameenPhone, Bangladesh's biggest cellphone company, incurred another big pecuniary punishment as the government fined the firm Tk 250 crore (US$36.5 million) Thursday for clandestine trading in VoIP telephony.
Government watchdog body in the telecommunications sector, Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC), imposed the fine for providing E1 connectivity to third parties enabling the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Earlier in 2007, GrameenPhone paid fines worth Tk 168.40 crore for similar offence. A number of other cellphone firms have also been punished for the same offence of making the most of the bonanza.
E1 is an all-digital communications line that allows the transmission of voice, data, video, and graphics at very high speeds over standard communications lines.
VoIP is a technology that allows someone to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line.
Some VoIP services may only allow calling other people using the same service, but others may allow calling anyone who has a telephone number - including local, long distance, mobile and international ones.
BTRC in a press release signed by its Director (Legal and Licensing Division) AKM Shahiduzzaman said that they had imposed the fine as the regulatory authority found GrameenPhones link in the illegal VoIP business.
BTRC fined GrameenPhone for providing E1 connectivity to third parties enabling the use of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which is illegal and unlawful and caused revenue loss to the Government, a BTRC release said.
International call termination to Bangladesh is a licensed service. BTRC, after finding GPs involvement on January 2008, carried out an investigation where involvement of GP was ascertained and the said penalty was imposed.
During the investigation, current MD of GrameenPhone Anders Jensen and his team extended full cooperation. GP has already made partial payment of the aforesaid amount and the balance will be deposited with the exchequer shortly, the release stated.
A BTRC official, requesting not to be named, told UNB that the GrameenPhone authorities already paid Tk 50 crore Thursday while the rest of the amount would be paid off by end of this month.
BTRC chairman Maj Gen (retd) Manzurul Alam, quoted in the press release, said: "We hope that no Telecommunications operator will facilitate any illegal VoIP ventures, directly or indirectly. The operators are expected to co-operate with the Government in preventing such activities in the future."
"No one will be spared if found involved, in any capacity, in the illegal call-termination business," warned the BTRC boss.
On the other hand, GrameenPhone in a press release also said that it agreed to pay an administrative fine of Tk 250 crore to the BTRC for providing E1 connectivity to third parties, enabling the use of VoIP technology, which is unlawful and illegal.
"We deeply regret that such unlawful practices were carried out and not disclosed earlier by GrameenPhone," GrameenPhone CEO Andres Jensen said in the release on a note of apology.
He said: "We have cooperated with BTRC in the investigations and the GrameenPhone Board also mandated an investigation by an external auditor to look into all aspects of our operations to ensure that we fully comply with all laws and regulations."
Norway's Telenor owns 62 per cent of the company, which launched operation in 1997, with the balance 38 per cent being held by local Grameen Telecom.
Earlier on January 16, the BTRC filed a case at Gulshan police station against 10 former and in-service high officials, including two former CEOs, at the country's top mobile-phone operator Grameenphone, alleging their involvement in...