In the wake of the police crackdown on an illegal telecom activity called the International Revenue Sharing Fraud (IRSF) last week, telecommunication companies here have foreseen an emerging threat to their relations with their international counterparts.
IRSF, said to be one of the most critical telecommunication crimes, was tracked in Nepal for the first time, with two Pakistani nationals found using the gateway of Ncell to make calls from SIM cards issued with UK-based companies Vodafone and T-Mobile. The duo had been making telephone calls to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the countries with high telecommunication tariffs. In the past couple of weeks, they had made calls for over 13,333 minutes using the roaming service of T-Mobile alone.
In roaming service, the home network (T-Mobile or Vodafone in this case), has to pay a certain amount of revenue to the visited network (Ncell) based on the talk-time. The visited network then shares the revenue with the carrier service providers (CSP) to whom it passes the call. The CSP again passes the call to another such service providers to route the call to the destination country, according to telecom companies. The longer the talk-time, the higher the revenue that the CSPs and the destination network get.
Nepal Telecom officials said such crime is possible with the involvement of CSPs that route the calls and destination networks. Therefore, racketeers look forward to increase the talk-time from the home network by misusing various high-cost services, preferably roaming.
Last week’s crackdown has revealed that IRSF, the biggest telecom crime, is also taking place in Nepal, according to Sanju Koirala, corporate communication director of Ncell.
“The high revenue charge for the home network is just one side of the coin,” she said. “In the larger picture, such instances are very much likely to spoil the relations of trust between two international telecommunication companies.” If such instances keep happening, international telecom operators might stop their outbound roaming services to Nepal, experts say. Such a move will take a toll directly on the revenue generation of local telecom companies and indirectly on other related businesses like tourism, the say. Spokesperson for Nepal Telecom Guna Keshari Pradhan echoed Koirala, and called for efforts from all related quarters to avoid the illegal operation of such “telecommunication pirates”.
“IRSF is already the most feared telecommunication crime, which often goes unnoticed, as the sharing of revenue goes in the legal channel,” he said. The two-week-long coordinated search carried out by Ncell and the police, which ended on July 16 with the arrest of Nabid Ur Rahman and Mohammad Asif is both a major success and a new challenge for police units looking to curb telecommunication crimes. Such crimes were so far limited to call by-pass and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP).
Police seized a laptop, 26 UK SIM cards, 17 Spain SIM cards, a Pakistan SIM card, three Ncell SIM cards and 20 cell phone sets from the Pakistanis.
According to SSP Subodh Ghimire, Head of the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, the recent arrest is an encounter that has opened up ways for other similar investigations.
“The ones we arrested are just a part of the huge trans-national racket,” he said. “Investigations to get further clues and to trace the larger racket are under way.”