BTRC's revenue collection for 2016-17 declined about 10.79 percent year-on-year to Tk 3,754.64 crore, a six-year low, apparently for a decrease in earnings under its revenue sharing policy with mobile and international gateway operators.
Despite missing its annual target by Tk 305.36 crore, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) got Tk 366.30 crore in the form of two mobile operators' merger fee, something it did not have in its calculations.
The telecom regulator's main chunk of annual collections comes from the revenue sharing policy -- mobile operators share 5.5 percent of their gross revenue with the BTRC, while international gateway operators 40 percent of what they earn from international calls.
Under the policy, BTRC collected Tk 2,455.08 crore in the just concluded fiscal year whereas it was Tk 3,361.45 crore the year before, according to its annual report.
Earnings from international calls also dropped by a few hundred crore taka, said a top BTRC official requesting anonymity.
“Revenue from international calls is on the decline and there are a number of reasons behind it,” said the official.
One is a cartel of international gateway operators formed a couple of years ago, he said.
Though the government has set a price for calls coming into the country, the cartel tends to fix higher prices for profits, leading to international callers shifting to illegal channels and mobile applications, he added.
The BTRC also collects annual charges from different service providers such as that for spectrum of mobile operators and downlink of television channels along with licence and late fees and fines.
Licence fee collections declined by about Tk 120 crore to Tk 156.51 crore in 2016-17, according to the regulator.
However, spectrum charges got a boost, increasing to Tk 901.20 crore from Tk 412 crore in the previous fiscal year.
The BTRC spent Tk 62.64 crore from the collections for administrative purposes and gave the rest to the exchequer.
Apart from the collections, the telecom regulator has a huge amount of outstanding dues which it is finding hard to collect as the debtors are either government-run or politically-backed, said an official at BTRC's finance division.
About Tk 1,100 crore is outstanding with different international gateway operators.
Though state-run mobile operator Teletalk is providing 3G services, it is yet to obtain a licence for having paid only Tk 60 crore of the Tk 1,627 crore licence and spectrum fee. Besides, it has a huge amount of 3G spectrum charges due.
Another state-owned telecom company, Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited, owes BTRC Tk 1,600 crore, added the official. Around Tk 100 crore is due from private landphone operators, most of which went out of service in the last couple of years.
In fiscal 2015-16, the BTRC's revenue slumped to Tk 4,207.94 crore although it had targeted to collect Tk 6,700 crore.
In 2014-15, the government had given it a target of Tk 13,660 crore keeping a spectrum auction target in mind. The BTRC managed to collect Tk 4,219.19 crore being unable to arrange the auction.
The highest amount of revenue the regulator ever collected was Tk 10,085.35 crore in 2013-14, thanks to a 3G spectrum auction and 2G licence renewal fees. Senior officials expect collections in 2017-18 to set another record as the government is going to award 4G licences and will arrange a spectrum auction within a few months.
More is to come from licences for mobile number portability and tower sharing, something the BTRC is currently working on.