NTA gets serious over call-bypass

KATHMANDU:Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA) has formed on Friday a committee to investigate on illegal call-bypass that has become a serious problem recently. The six-member committee formed under Santosh Poudel, deputy director of the NTA will prepare a report within two months.

“The NTA will prepare action plan on the basis of the report produced by the committee,” said Ananda Raj Khanal, director at the Nepal Telecom Authority (NTA) — the regulatory authority of the telecom service providers. The committee has the representatives of four telecom service providers — Nepal Telecom (NT), Spice Nepal (Mero Mobile), United Telecom Ltd (UTL) and STM and an Internet Service Provider (ISP) Association.

Telecom providers are losing billions in fraudulent international calls. “NT alone is losing around Rs 1 billion because of international calls made to bypass the official gateway,” said the NT. Other telecom service providers — Spice Nepal, UTL and STM — are also losing out. Call bypassers use V-SAT to divert international calls from the official gateway to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks. The call is then transferred to the telecom client through a landline or mobile. Such international calls show local numbers on the receiver’s set.

If a local number appears on one’s caller ID while receiving an international call, it is a by-passed call. International call-bypass has become a serious problem to the NTA as it is not only creating misunderstanding between the telecom service providers but also bleeding the national coffer white.

“Callers are also being cheated because the reception is unclear and it is hard to connect,” Khanal said. “Getting an internet connection and a phone line is not difficult now. If one has an internet connection, one can easily bypass a call from anywhere with a VoIP device that is small enough to fit in a back-pack and is easily available.”

“Because there is no need to pay the service charge or the tax, these calls are cheaper for the end-user,” he said adding that sim cards of all the telecom operators are used for bypass purposes.

The telecom operators have been blocking sim cards, when they suspect or get complaints of their sim cards being used for call bypass but NTA needs a teeth to take strong action against those involved in the fraudulent act. “We will prepare Act or do whatever needed — after the report comes — to control it,” Khanal assured.