Vol. 5 Num 630 Tue. March 07, 2006  

New Subscription Law
Cellphone connection sales drop 30pc

The country's booming mobile phone industry may see four million less customers at the end of 2006 than the projected figure of 10 million as the new subscription regulation casts a shadow on the growth.

Operators said as the mobile phone companies started following the regulation in selling fresh connections from February 27, they have witnessed up to 30 percent dip in sales.

The new telecoms regulation has made it mandatory for all prospective customers to offer their personal details including photographs, fingerprints, and attested photo identifications.

Total mobile phone subscribers were around 10 million at the end of 2005 and it was expected that the base would reach 20 million by 2006.

"It will be difficult to add another 10 million subscribers by the end of this year as the newly introduced regulation has slowed down our sales by 30 percent," Lars P Reichelt, chief executive officer of Banglalink, told reporters yesterday at a function in Dhaka.

There may be another six million subscribers instead of the projected 10 million at the end of 2006 due to the complicated procedure, he felt.

Getting all relevant documents prepared to fill in a subscription form is a lengthy process. "It's a problem and it might dampen the growth," Reichelt told the function organised to announce Banglalink's promotional offer-- 'give and receive'.

Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has made it mandatory for new subscribers to submit a 'certificate' issued by an elected public representative or a first class government officer. Those who have passports, driving or gun licences or other forms of photo identity will not require the certificate.

If any subscriber provides false information in personal details, the official or the public representative attesting the documents will be taken to task.

"Cellphone subscription reached around 12 million at the end of February but sales have slowed down substantially after we have started the new process," said a top official of another operator.

The mandatory certificate for fresh subscription will deal a severe blow to the growth of the mobile phone market in Bangladesh, the official feared.

The BTRC held a series of meetings with the top officials of cellphone companies since January 19, asking the operators to start the new process by February 27 and complete the registration process of their 11 million previous subscribers. Registration is the first step of the 'controversial' tele-tapping ordinance.

The government on December 11, 2005 amended the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act 2001 and promulgated an ordinance with immediate effect, allowing intelligence and law enforcement personnel to tap the telephonic conversations of any individual.

The government amended it again on January 30 and added provision for punishment to the operators who will not comply with the directives.

The bill allowing intelligence and law enforcement agencies to tap telephone conversations was passed in the parliament on February 12 amid strong protests from the opposition lawmakers.