International bid

Bangla keypad must on mobile handsets

The government will not allow foreign companies to directly import mobile-phone handsets and all sets bought in must have Bangla keypad from February, the telecoms regular says.

A guideline will be formulated ‘soon’, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Zia Ahmed told on Friday.

February is the month when the nation spilled blood to establish Bangla as one of the state languages of erstwhile Pakistan in 1952.

The decision to ban import of handsets without Bangla keypad was taken last week and will come into force from February next year, he said. He, however, did not make it clear that when the other ban will be imposed.

“Mobile-phone operators will not be able to import handsets directly, too. They’ll have to bring in handsets through local importers,” he said, recognising the losses the local importers face due to direct imports by foreign firms.

However, the operators may be allowed to import high-end sets with superior technology, another BTRC official said, requesting anonymity.

Six mobile-phone operators—Grameenphone, Robi, Citycell, Airtel, Banglalink and state-owned Teletalk are in Bangladesh market.

Local importers have welcomed the decision.

“We’ve been pressing the BTRC to take the decision for the past two and half a years,” Bangladesh Mobile Handset Importers Association general secretary Faisal Alim told

Around 50 local firms import nearly six million handsets a year, the spokesman said.

Handsets with common International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) are imported by the firms outside the association, he said, adding that users face troubles when their handsets are lost.

He demanded a ban on import of handsets by firms outside the association. “Import of handsets with common IMEI can be prevented if the step is taken.”

The BTRC chief said a machine, called Equipment Identification Register, will be set up at the commission to prevent import of handsets with common IMEI.

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