New telecom products to come under intelligence scrutiny

Govt worried about crimes through mobile banking

Shakhawat Hossain

The country’s telecom regulator has been asked to take consent from the national telecommunication monitoring centre before approving new product launch, including those by cell phone companies.
A home ministry official said the directive had been issued to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to check growing extortion and threat through cell phones.
The national telecommunication monitoring centre, run by an intelligence agency since 2013, would scrutinise the products by the telecom operators to ensure ‘Lawful Interception Compliance’ from now on, he said.
Home ministry officials said the move was also taken to strictly monitor the accounts of mobile banking by the BTRC, NTMC, banks and financial institutions division, after completion of verification of SIM (subscriber identification module), in the next three months.
He said they informed BTRC of the decision early July after it was taken by the
cabinet committee on law and order, headed by industries minister Amir Hossain Amu on June 4.
BTRC officials, including its chairman Sunil Kanti Bose, refused to talk on the issue.
Additional secretary Gokul Chand Das of the banks and financial institutions division admitted that the division received such directives. He told New Age that they had already sent the directives to the central bank for further action.
The government is worried with growing financial transactions through cell phones by the banks in the last couple of years, because of malpractice and violation of rules by the operators.
Available data showed that the average daily transaction through cell phones was Tk 420 crore in May, by around 20 banks, who are offering the growing service through 550,000 agents to 27.29 million customers, with encouragement from the Bangladesh Bank.
Allegations are rife that extortion, blackmail and holding people to ransom have increased utilising the platform, as police fail to locate the culprits because of accounts in
fake names and false addresses.
Bkash, the leading mobile banking service provider, has expelled 9,000 members because of violations of service rules.
An official of a cell phone company said an amendment to the Telecommunication Act 2001 in 2005 allowed the government for the first time to intercept mobile phone communications.
Seven years later, in 2013, the NTMC was established at the home ministry in a separate office. But it has nothing to do with the approval process of the new products of the telecom operators.
The matter is solely dealt by the BTRC.
The cell phone operators apprehended further hassle and time loss in getting their products approved by the NTMC.
The BB officials said the mobile banking system was still in its nascent stage as it has been only four years in operation. They are working to strengthen the security of the platform.
Out of the 28 licensed banks in Bangladesh, 20 are involved in mobile banking services. Bkash and Dutch-Bangla mobile banking make up 80 per cent of the total mobile banking market.
According to the guidelines on Mobile Banking Financial Services, the registered user will
have to use the mobile banking service himself or herself.
Agents can only help the user to cash in and cash out money from the mobile bank account. Agents cannot send money directly to anybody else on behalf of the user. Only the user will be responsible for sending money to second or third parties.

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