TElecom Surveillance Upgrade
Home asks NBR to exempt telcos from import duty
The home ministry has requested the National Board of Revenue to waive any payment of tax on the import of equipment which will be used to upgrade the government’s mobile phone surveillance system, NBR officials told New Age. A letter from the home ministry’s senior secretary Md Mozammel Haque Khan has recently asked NBR chairman Md Nojibur Rahman to ‘personally intervene’ to allow the waiver at ‘the national interest and to ensure state security and law and order.’
The letter explained that although the phone operators had agreed to pay for the equipment for the ‘lawful interception’, ‘they have expressed their inability to pay any tax.’
‘The NTMC (National Telecommunication Monitoring Centre) has been doing its work with equipment installed seven years ago,’ the letter states. ‘This equipment has served out its tenure. The equipment installed then could only monitor mobile phone calls and now the installation needs to be upgraded.’
A similar request had been made by the home ministry in September 2014, but the NBR had at that time said that it was unable to agree to allow an exemption.
In 2005, an amendment to the Telecommunication Act 2001 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.
A senior official of a mobile phone company said that paying for the equipment was already a significant cost for the companies and so they were not willing to pay the tax.
‘The cost is around Tk 25 crore to upgrade the surveillance system of the NTMC and we agreed to bear it according to the law. The mobile companies do not make any revenue from the NTMC operation,’ he said.
The government last month stopped the internet-based communication applications Viber, WhatsApp, Tango and several others for four days citing security reason as the NTMC does not have technology to monitor those communications.
-With New Age input