Business

Local telecoms lose over $1b a year to international call bypass

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter scotts@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 06, 2014    

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OVER $1 billion is lost by local telecommunications each year to people illegally making international phone calls to Jamaica.

Using the SIM cards of domestic carriers, LIME and Digicel, to make the calls from overseas means that international calling charges are bypassed.

The high level of sophistication and cost associated with illegal bypass operations suggest that one or more organised networks are doing it.

But it's still very difficult to pinpoint exactly where it is occurring.

"Nowadays we can identify certain SIMs that are involved and we shut them down," said Barry O'Brien, CEO of Digicel Jamaica. "They are just one step ahead of us and these are quite large sums of money involved here, estimated to be as much as US$1 million per month ($109 million)."

It also means that the Government misses out on collecting its 19 US cents-a-minute tax on incoming international calls.

"It robs the treasury of quite a bit of money" said Garry Sinclair, CEO of LIME Jamaica.

Digicel, along with LIME and Flow have been working with the government to cut down the illegal operations.

Meanwhile, Universal Service Fund (USF), which gets its revenue from the levy on incoming calls, is currently in discussions to get software within three months to assess the extent of illegal bypass in Jamaica.

More specifically, the restricted time-of-use demo software will assess the routing of incoming international call traffic and where it's being routed, according to Hugh Cross, CEO of USF, but it costs as much as US$5 million to actually purchase.

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