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MNP has been a damp squib. BTRC is giving another go at making it work.

  • Published at 01:38 am February 14th, 2021
Mobile number portability

One of the major reasons behind MNP's failure to launch is that users stopped receiving text messages after making the switch, a problem that the BTRC hopes to solve by making all third-party SMS vendors connect to a platform that allows seamless routing

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission is giving another shot at making the mobile number portability service, which has so far flopped big time, a success.

Introduced in 2018, the service allows subscribers to swap networks without changing their existing 11-digit number within 72 hours.  

The MNP, which cost Tk 57 crore, failed to take off in a big way and one of the major reasons was that that users stopped receiving text messages after making the switch, a great inconvenience to all.

To address the problem, Infozillion, the MNP service provider,has set up a “deeping” platform for all the financial and SMS service providers and other platforms to connect to. But Infozillion found that none had connected to the platform.

Now the BTRC has made it mandatory for all of them to connect to the platform within the next one month.

“What will happen if any error occurs in the platform?” asks Tushar Hasan, head of business of SSL Wireless, one of the largest third-party bulk text message vendor.

If something goes wrong, all activities of the bulk text message providers have come to a screeching halt.

The BTRC has not mentioned what would be the alternative.

Then the fixed tariff of Tk 0.05 for every text message is not sitting well with them.

“Who will bear this charge? The BTRC has not mentioned anything. If we bear this, we have to count losses as we can’t charge extra from the users. So, the BTRC has to clarify this.”

The other bulk text message providers have other issues too, all of which will be compiled and sent out to the BTRC by next week, Hasan added.

“If they have any objection on this instruction, they have to explain with logic,” said Subrata Roy, vice-chairman of the BTRC, adding that the other issues would be ironed out through dialogue once the connection is made to the “deeping” platform.

However, the mobile operators said they would block the bulk text message providers if they do not ensure “deeping” within the BTRC’s stipulated timeline.

“We wanted to ensure “deeping” for a long time,” said Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer of Robi. 

The third-party bulk text message providers are not connecting to the platform as they would have to spend money.

“But the rules are rules and they must follow them,” Alam added. 

Mohammad Zulfikar, chief executive officer of the MNP service provider Infozillion Teletech, blamed the obstinacy of the third-party service providers from connecting to the “deeping” platform for the bad rap the MNP service has gotten thus far.

“If they connected with us, the problems will be solved within a day,” he said. 

Of the 16.8 crore-odd mobile subscribers as of 2020, only 10.7 lakh have availed the service since its rollout. 

Discussions on MNP started in 2009 and in June 2013, the BTRC asked the mobile operators to introduce the service by January 2014. But the operators failed to do so, which compelled the telecom regulator to go for a third-party company to implement the service.

The telecom regulator had narrowed in on Infozillion by way of a beauty contest auction in 2017. The licence acquisition fee has been set at Tk 10 crore, and the winning company will have to share 15 per cent of its revenues with the government from the second year onwards.

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