VoIP users connected to the internet through local broadband service providers (ISPs) can now talk to each other and telecom subscribers, as the telecom regulator made a tariff directive to commercially launch IP VoIP telephony services.
Under VoIP tariff plan, 33 licensees, known as internet protocol telephony service providers (IPTSPs), can now sell voice services.
Service providers can charge a maximum of Tk 0.20 a minute for domestic IPTSP to IPTSP calls and a maximum of Tk 2 for a call from IPTSP to any mobile or landline operator, in line with a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) directive.
However, the minimum airtime charge for calls from IPTSP to any mobile or landline operator will not be below Tk 0.65 a minute, according to the BTRC.
For international outgoing calls, IPTSP will have to follow the rates for international calls, as issued earlier by BTRC.
However, the new tariff directive frustrates IP telephony licence holders, as such charges will not be financially viable. Different telecom operators are charging lower than the tariff set for IPTSP.
"If we offer IPTSP to IPTSP calls almost free of cost, it will help boost internet penetration," said Akhtaruzzaman Manju, president of Internet Service Providers Bangladesh.
In addition, other IP-based voice services to other operators will not be viable due to the uncompetitive tariff directive, he said. "It's not a very good proposition in terms of tariff."
It would have been better if the per minute charge was fixed between Tk 0.30 to Tk 0.60, said Manju.
The services are to be value-added services at low costs, it will gain popularity in some areas such as intra-company communication, he said.
IP telephony licence owners can provide PC (personal computer) to phone, phone to PC, phone to phone or any other use to subscribers, based on the IP telephony voice service.
From a technical point of view, experts said, the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is set to open through legal channels as IP and VoIP technologies have nearly the same features.
BTRC last year made a guideline to award IP voip telephony licences exclusively to local ISPs. Customers now can talk by using their broadband connection just after installing a modem for voice transmission.
Currently, more than five lakh broadband users are connected through local ISPs. On the other hand, mobile operators claimed more than 40 lakh are connected via mobile internet phone. Bangladesh's internet phone service penetration rate is only 4 percent.
Abdus Salam, who is the managing director of Agni Systems Ltd, an IP telephony licensee, said: "We should not charge extra for voice as our customers already have to pay for an internet connection."
He said that people should be permitted to use the technology first.
"We trust it will soon become popular as it is affordable."
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