Industry insiders said increased use of app-based services for voice call and vulnerability in key customer segment of overseas workers are the key reason for the decline in business
The country's already ailing international gateway (IGW) operators witnessed a 33 percent fall in business during the Covid-19 shutdown despite surge in international communication.
Industry insiders said increased use of app-based services for voice call and vulnerability in key customer segment of overseas workers are the key reason for the decline in business.
IGW operators route the incoming and outgoing international calls through a legal channel. This was one of the government's major sources for revenue from the telecom sector few years back.
A senior official of an IGW company said the increased use of app-based services for voice call chips away significant amount of revenue.
"There was a huge surge in international communication during Covid-19 quarantine but the IGW operators failed to cash in due to the increased use of internet-based apps," he said.
He also said because of less cost and convenience, people mostly opt for app-based communication in the era of modern technology.
Industry insiders said a major segment of international incoming calls are usually generated by the overseas workers, mostly in Middle Eastern countries.
They said as the coronavirus outbreak put the entire world in a standstill, Bangladeshi workers abroad are also affected and regular calls to their home have become a luxury.
"Like all other businesses, we are also suffering due to the Covid-19 shutdown and our call volume declined by 33 percent during March to first week of May," a senior official of IGW Operators Forum told The Business Standard.
He said a major customer segment of international incoming call business is Bangladeshi workers living abroad.
"Now they are also facing difficulties with job and financial situation. As a result, their regular calls have declined," he said adding that the situation may worsen for the IGW operators in coming days.
According to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission data, in fiscal year 2014-15, the government's earnings from international calls were Tk2,075.62 crore, which declined to Tk1,387.37 crore in the following fiscal year.
In 2016-17 fiscal year, earnings from the sector declined to Tk967.63 crore and further to Tk900.35 crore in the 2017-18 fiscal year.
Currently, there are 24 IGW operators. Of them, six lost their licences for failing to pay unpaid dues.