Grameenphone, Telenor Group's concern in Bangladesh, has the lowest internet penetration among the group's six Asian ventures despite having the strongest subscriber base.
Grameenphone, Bangladesh's top mobile phone operator, also has the lowest number of smartphone users among the Telenor companies in Asia, according to a study by the Norwegian telecom giant.
Digi, Telenor's Malaysian venture, takes the top spot in terms of both internet and smartphone penetration.
Telenor's internet growth in the Asian markets has been modest and it aims to bring 80 percent of its total subscribers online by 2017, under its 'internet for all' ambition.
Digi's internet penetration is 56 percent as of December 2014, while smartphone penetration is about 50 percent, the group's market study reveals.
Digi Telecommu-nications has only 11.4 million active subscribers and stands fourth in the local market, but has already launched 4G services.
However, the same study found Grameen-phone to have a modest 21 percent internet penetration, and just 8 percent of the users have smartphone.
Telenor said it is working closely with the local governments to increase internet usage.
“We are extremely hopeful about our Asian markets,” Tore Johnsen, the group's senior vice president for performance management in Asia, said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.
Though the focus is different in different countries, the group is mostly looking to students, showing them the needs and benefits of good internet services, he said. “With continued growth at the current rates, our internet-user number in the region will reach 80 percent by 2017.”
Telenor has 160 million users in the region as of December last year. “We are also offering access to smartphones under various offers to boost internet use,” Johnsen added.
Albern Murty, chief executive of Digi Telecommunications, said: "All our programmes are internet-focused, leading to success in the market." A subscriber is currently using one gigabyte internet data every month on average, and the numbers are increasing, Murty added. “The launch of 3G services, like in Bangladesh, has also increased data usage,” he said.
Most Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia use Digi's network to contact relatives back home, along with using various modern applications that also increase data consumption, he added. Telenor's Thailand operation Dtac has 26 million subscribers, 50 percent of which are connected to the internet, and 46 percent are using smartphones.
Telenor launched its Myanmar operations two years ago and now has 3.4 million active users, about half of whom use its internet services. “Data penetration is increasing heavily in Myanmar, as some 30 percent of total revenue comes from data,” said Johnsen. “They are hungry for information and use the internet to learn.”