Friday, January 18, 2019

What’s in the cart for 4G customers as Bangladesh set to ride ‘internet expressway’

  • Shamim Ahamed,
    Published: 2018-02-14 23:47:53 BdST


Mobile telecom operators in Bangladesh are all set to roll out 4G services after acquiring spectrum and tech neutrality, but the questions the mobile users are asking is what will the upgrade mean to them.

In an auction by the regulators BTRC on Tuesday, Grameenphone and Banglalink bought new frequencies as well as tech neutrality to launch new services while Robi went for only tech neutrality to offer 4G services by using its existing frequencies.

The operators say this means Bangladesh is going to ride the ‘internet expressway’, freeing the users from low-speed bandwidth.

The 4G services will allow the users to save time as well as acquire the internet-based services without any interruption.

People related to the sector, however, think the success of launching the 4G services depends on keeping the price at tolerable levels.

TIM Nurul Kabir, Secretary General of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh or AMTOB, told the 4G connection will halve the time to download or upload data now needed in the 3G network.

According to him, the average 3G speed is 3.75Mbps. “In 4G, (the operators) will try to offer 7Mbps or more speed, but the customers won’t get the speed initially. They will have to wait for some time to get full facilities of this (4G) technology,” he said.

Customers have always complained about 3G services since those were launched in 2013 and the operators blamed it on the lack of spectrum and absence of tech neutrality.

Nurul Kabir says these problems will not persist in the 4G services.

“The operators will be able to provide 4G services at any bands after getting tech neutrality. Tech neutrality increases the capability of frequencies up to two folds. This will also improve voice call services,” he said.

The AMTOB secretary general, however, alleged the prices for spectrums were high. “The operators will be able to buy more frequencies if the prices are kept at tolerable levels,” he said.

According to Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, the monthly average usage of data by a mobile internet user was below 100Mb when 3G services were launched more than four years ago, and now it is around 700Mb.

AMTOB’s Nurul Kabir thinks the scarcity of 4G enabled handsets will be a big challenge for Bangladesh in familiarising the new services.

In Bangladesh, 70 percent of the mobile-phone users use feature phones while the remaining 30 percent have smartphones, with 10 percent of those 3G enabled.

Michael Foley, CEO of the country’s leading operator Gramophone, said on Tuesday that 14 percent of their subscribers have 4G enabled handsets.

Nurul Kabir said the government’s cooperation was needed to increase the demand for 4G enabled handsets.

Syed Almas Kabir, CEO of MetroNet Bangladesh Limited and president of Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services or BASIS, said, “The door to new possibilities will open if we get 4G services with the desired speed.”    

He said people living in the rural areas would not need to come to towns and cities for jobs as online services and e-commerce will increase once the 4G services are launched.

Bangladesh Association of Call Centres and Outsourcing Secretary General Towhid Hossain said those working in outsourcing in Bangladesh ‘did not actually’ get the 3G services.

“But the income of those working in remote areas will surely rise if the 4G services are ensured. Work areas will also expand,” he said.

He also said the prices for 4G services should be kept at tolerable levels so that the Facebook-based business entities or F-commerce entrepreneurs can expand their business.

According to him, around 20,000 F-commerce pages and groups are operating in the country now.