A major digital transformation is coming up in Bangladesh with 4G changing citizens' way of life alongside uplifting the economy, said a top official of Ericsson.
Todd Ashton, president of the mobile technology provider in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, said rolling out fourth generation mobile technology would further the transformation of the country into Digital Bangladesh.
“Launching 4G technology in the country can contribute a lot in Bangladesh's economy while this technological development will also help to uplift citizens' way of life,” he told The Daily Star in an interview on Tuesday.
The Swedish company launched its business in Bangladesh two decades back and is celebrating its 20th anniversary here today with a daylong programme in a city hotel showcasing cutting-edge technology.
Ashton said Ericsson Bangladesh has been working to improve the skills of the local workforce to the international standards.
And in the last 20 years, it has groomed more than 10,000 skilled employees who are now working in the global arena both in and outside Ericsson.
He said their study shows that every 1,000 new broadband connection generates 80 new jobs in the market. If machine intelligence is introduced, production will increase along with jobs as per the ratio, he added.
“If you add more technology into your business, especially internet, that will also help to increase business,” said Ashton, who has been with Ericsson for over 19 years and was based out of Sweden till 1998.
After 1998, he held leadership roles in various parts of the world, including Europe and North America and is now also the acting head of Ericsson's Axiata Global Accounts.
About new innovation, he said in Malaysia they put sensors in mangroves and the technology gives them information about the soil and other components, helping to get better results in agricultural outputs.
He suggested Bangladesh adopt the same thing and bring changes with different agricultural applications which would ultimately increase production.
Ashton said they are working with robotics and artificial intelligence machines that could help increase domestic production dramatically.
Last year, Ericsson established an Internet of Things portal in Chittagong and its service will be available within a short time, the company said.
Ericsson, one of the leading mobile technology vendors in the world, also estimates to generate huge business from the 4G segment and targets a twentyfold increase in year-on-year revenue through it.
They, however, denied revealing their earnings in Bangladesh, only saying that 3G had increased their earnings fourfold.
Ashton said a major digital transformation is coming up in Bangladesh as smartphones were reaching the farthest corners of the country and even people who are just above the poverty line.
“Two top mobile operators tested their network with our 4G equipment and maybe we will get their business,” said Ashton.
The Ericsson boss said they started 3G service on trial in Bangladesh in 2008, especially in hospitals and educational institutions, although it was made commercially available five years later.
Ashton also said Bangladeshi customers were getting more services than expected on 3G.
About the market's 4G readiness, he said Bangladesh has demand for new technology.
People are now using more and more social media platforms, including Facebook, Whatsapp, Viber, and enjoying YouTube, he said.
“We are also seeing that the ecosystem is getting ready for the launch of the service.”
However, he also mentioned some challenges on the part of devices and content.
“I cannot mention how much time it will take to bring all the benefits to the end users after the launch of 4G services but it will absolutely give customers much faster internet speed, which will ultimately change their lives.”
Of its 20 years journey in Bangladesh, the company has faced ups and downs in business, he said.
In the last 10 years, the company's market share has probably gone down but the absolute value of Ericsson's market share has gone up thanks to the tremendous growth of the economy, the Ericsson boss said.
He said Ericsson was carrying around 30 to 35 percent of the total traffic because they were working with two of the biggest operators.
However, every customer of the country is “touching” Ericsson technology both at the front or back-end.
Ericsson recently cut down their manpower in Bangladesh as its business declined after completion of the Robi and Airtel merger.
Due to the merger, they no longer need to provide services to Airtel and for this Ericsson let go 1,000 people.
“Letting go is always a tragedy – because we know about their hardships and their families but we need to adapt to changes in the business scenario.”
Ashton also said this downsizing was not really related to any global strategy. “Our business has just changed.”