VALUE ADDED SERVICES -A NEW HORIZON IN BANGLADESH
Md. Yousuf Niaz
WHAT IT IS
The very term "Value Added Services", popularly known as "VAS" explains itself. Broadly, the services that ads value to the basic telecommunications services are known as Value Added Services. It overlays on the basic connectivity. Generally it is defined as all services provided above basic voice Telephony as specified in the European Union Green Paper and also "as any facility and/or feature modifying the content and/or format of the information. Value can be added step by step and in this way hundreds of different new services can be developed and customization can be done. Depending upon the basic Telephony service newer services can always be added which if pursued can open up an entirely new horizon in Telecom sector in Bangladesh.
HERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES:
Following are few examples of the Value Added Services. There are many more and with each passing day new services are being added to the list.
Intelligent Networking Facilities [IN]
Virtual Private Networks
Abbreviated calling facilities
CENTREX (Switch performing PABX facilities from central location for remote locations without the need to purchase a PABX or one with advanced facilities.
Voice Messaging Systems.
Enhance DATA facilities (systems allowing transmissions above 19,200 Bps).
Frame Relay/ATM and Protocol and speed conversion systems.
Electronic Mail (allowing storage and retrieval of written messages as specified in the X400 standards.)
Point of Sales Terminal (allowing EN’ and automatic stock control)
Videotext Services and Information Board Systems
Card verification systems (checking of credit cards/account cards validity.)
Mobile Data VSAT National services (allowing one way satellite communications via use of central HUB and small dishes)
Cable Television Other Services
Directory services (printing commercialization and distribution of Telephone/Telex/Fax directories combined with Yellow Pages.)
Translation facilities (provide voice translation for phone conversations)
Marketing centers (call centers for on-line sales/inquiries/market studies..)
WHAT IS HAPPENING AROUND US:
Telecommunication is a sector that posses immense potential. Not only that, the plenty of new services that arouse from the incorporation of Value Added Services can open up a vast new window of opportunity. With each passing day newer services are coming into play. For countries like ours it is beyond means to keep pace with the rapid changes in the developed world. Nevertheless, we can and should look and compare with the countries around us and at a development stage similar to ours.
In India, Pakistan and Srilanka, they have already started providing services like E-Mail, INTERNET, High Speed Data Services, VSATs etc. both in private and public sector. The introduction of these services have not only generated a great deal of employment itself, it also opened up opportunities for newer services in Banking, Finances, Business, Trades etc.. With the gradual opening up of the economy the introduction of these Value Added Services have provided a great impetus for their economy. The most remarkable part of the India Experience is that before introducing these services and allowing private sector to start participating, they have put together all the necessary legislation, rules & regulations to provide a just and equitable field to play for the participants.
In Pakistan, PTT’s are also taking part in the competition with other private sector operator for providing Value Added Services. There are services like E-Mail, INTERNET and Paging services. Similar situation is prevailing in Srilanka while other countries on the Pacific Rim such as Singapore, Honking, Malaysia are much ahead in this regard. In all these countries also, before opening the Value Added Service chapter; they have formulated a comprehensive policy and regulatory framework. As a result, with the expansion of business and economic activities, the required Value Added Services could come to the support of other sectors timely and with all it’s flavour and efficiency with it. The inter dependence of the Value Added Services in Telecommunications with other services of the economy such as Financial, Banking, Transportation, Tourism etc. have given a cumulative effect on the whole economy and helped these countries to forge ahead.
THE TIME IS RIPE:
The world is passing through Information evolution. The present era is the era of information. They will be in the driving seat in the coming century who now masters the art of information technology. As a new nation, we have no other option than to be a part of these changes. Otherwise this time if we miss the train, we shall be left behind to see the whole world passing by.
So this is the time; we have to put utmost emphasis on this field if we at all wish to survive as a nation and prosper. in such case Value Added Service is one of the most appropriate vehicle. It can play a pivotal role not only in the development of this sector but also the entire economy as a whole.
In our opinion, one thing should be remembered that this is possible neither by the public sector (here it is Bangladesh T&T Board) alone nor it can be solidly done by the private sector. Rather a concerted effort of everybody is required. While it is essential that the private sector comes forward, it is equally essential that they have to be provided with healthy environment, it is very true that without competition nothing grows healthily. But only liberalizing the sector should not be the end in itself, it should be rather the beginning of a long process. Before liberalizing the sector, a comprehensive policy should be in place and there should be a regulatory framework that shall provide everybody with a level playing field.
The need of the time is a competitive environment, just and equitable regulatory framework or in other words, the rules of the game, a competent body to act as a watchdog, and lastly an efficient basic telecommunications infrastructure. It should be ensured that whatever may be the case, the choice should always be with the end users that is the customers. They should be the only controlling factor in the whole game, the king of the ring.
Good news is that private sector operators have showed great interest in these Value Added Services and have already started few limited services in small scales. The public sector (i.e. BTTB) have also come forward. Bangladesh T&T Board is in the process of installing Packet Switched Data Network very soon (by July ‘96) and shall start E-Mail & Internet services hopefully by the beginning of next year. It has already started giving V-SAT services through Point to Point leased circuits.
Few rates of the services proposed to be given from the Packet Switched Data Network (PSDN) and that of V-SAT are given below:
Data on Packet Switch Yearly rental
X.25 Data Services Tk. 36,000/-
X.28 lease Tk. 18,300/-
Registration fee for Dial up subscribers only Tk. 100/-
Us age Charge (on the volume of data transfer and duration of connection)
Type For all working days All working days beyond All holidays and all other
during office hour (900- office hour 1600-2200 & days from 2200 to 600 hrs
1600 hrs 600 hrs-900 hrs
Within National network Tk. 17/- per kilo segment Tk. 11/-per kilo segment Tk. 6/- per kilo segment International Tk. 250/- per kilo Segment-
Within National network Tk. 0.25 per minute.
International Tk. 5/- per minute
Note: 1 Segment = 64 bytes, I byte = 8 bits.
In addition to the above for national and international calls subscriber shall have to pay the lowest available NWD and ISD rates.
For VSAT services, the rate for connecting to countries within single hop i.e.. Within the Asia Pacific region such as Singapore, Honking, India, Pakistan etc. is Tk. 5 Lac monthly and for countries to be reached by two hops such as USA, Canada, UK the rate is monthly Tk. 7.05 lacs. Considering opinion from different quarters for reducing the rates to Tk. 5 lacs, steps have already been taken. Proposals are in the proces for reducing this rate.
THE LAST WORDS:
This is true that to keep our very existence in the world of competition in the coming age we have to be a part of the changes in the information evolution. And to do that we, the Public Sector and the Private Sector, have to exploit the vast window of opportunity in the Value Added Services. This is also true that for that mailer private sector participation and free and fair competition is very much essential.
Another important thing is that upon the basic telecommunications network actually the whole range of Value Added Services work. So for efficient use of these value added services, an efficient and standard basic network is extremely essential. This calls for huge investment in the telecom sector and prioritizing it over other sector of the economy.
Engr N. H. Choudhuryobtained B.Sc Engg (Civil) in 1966 from BUET & subsequently did his MBA from Dhaka University. Since 1969 he has been working in deferent fields of Telecommunication and he is presently posted as Director Planning. He received training in different fields of Telecommunications in various countries e.g., U.K. Japan, U.S.A. etc. He was Chairman, BTTB when Retired. Now serving in BTRC (Telecom Regulatory Commission).
Engr Yusuf Niaz obtained B.Sc. Engg. (Electrical & Electronics) in 1988 from BUET & subsequently did his MBA from Dhaka University in 1994. Presently he is working as Assistant Divisional Engineer at Computer project of BT&T Board.