Internet data caps, time limits to go soon
Mobile users in Bangladesh are set to avail data without expiry date and monthly limitless data, which will allow them to use internet to work, communicate, study, and find entertainment to their heart's content.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has directed the mobile phone operators to roll out two types of new internet data packages.
One of them is a "volume-based data package without expiry". But the data has to be used up in a year due to the technological limitation, according to the commission.
The other is monthly-based limitless data volumes packages, which will allow customers to continue using internet as much as they want, similar to that available under a Wi-Fi connection.
"It will have a far-reaching impact on the telecom ecosystem of Bangladesh," Mustafa Jabbar, telecom minister, told The Daily Star.
The official announcement about the two packages will take place tomorrow, said Subrata Roy Maitra, vice-chairman of the BTRC.
Jabbar, who himself has advocated for the launch of such internet offers, calls the packages watershed for general customers as it would enhance their participation in the government's pursuit of digitalisation.
Currently, one of the major inconveniences for many customers is that they can't consume all the data for which they have paid for due to the time limit.
Last month, state-run Teletalk launched two internet packages without any expiry date.
"Teletalk's time limitless data package has received a huge response. I think private operators will get more customers with such packages," said the minister.
Md Shahab Uddin, managing director of Teletalk, echoed the minister, saying the operator is getting a good response.
According to BTRC sources, the new categories of packages will only be applicable for internet data, not for SMS, voice and social packs.
However, an operator can continue offering its current 95 packages across three categories: regular packages, customer-centric special packages, and research and development packages.
Each package contains four types of duration: 3-day, 7-day, 15-day, and 30-day.
Sources say Grameenphone has already taken approval from the commission for some packages under two categories and will launch them in days, while Robi and Banglalink to follow suit.
Hossain Sadat, acting chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone, said: "Our focus has always been to introduce new and innovative services and provide what matters most to our customers."
"We welcome BTRC and the Posts and Telecommunications Ministry's initiative to introduce unlimited data packages and believe that such initiatives will give our customers more freedom to use internet for their daily needs and necessities."
"If a private operator launches the service, we will have to do the same," said an executive of an operator.
However, some officials of private operators have expressed their displeasure as they argued that such a package could dent their profit.
"Providing unlimited data is neither commercially sustainable for operators nor technologically viable since people will use large volumes of data, which will increase pressure on the wireless network," said an official of an operator, seeking anonymity.
Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer at Banglalink, said offering a package depends on the strategy of an operator. So, there should be flexibility whether the operator wants to launch it or not.
Both experts and users welcomed the move.
"This will benefit customers," said Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at Colombo-based think-tank LIRNEasia.
Sabbir Ahmed, a subscriber, has access to unlimited packages at his office and home thanks to Wi-Fi connections. However, when he goes outs, he can't use the mobile internet much since he could run out of data.
"If the operators launch such packages, it will help me use as much data as I need without any worry."
Mazhar Uddin, a customer of a telecom operator, said if the operators launch data with a one-year validity at a reasonable price, it will be very good for him.
"But if they charge a high price, it will not bring any good."
Abrar Hussain, another customer, said it is a good initiative as many people lead a busy life and find the requirement to recharge mobile data every few days cumbersome.
"Besides, it will eliminate the pressure to keep in mind when to recharge the data."
Khan also says the BTRC should let the operators develop their own network to eliminate their reliance on other service providers.
"Regulatory restrictions on developing optical fibre networks and using dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM) technology must be removed for meaningful internet connection," he said.
The DWDM is a process of multiplexing various wavelength signals onto a single fibre.