Internet traffic surges as people stay home
As the spreading coronavirus has largely paralysed public movement and social life, internet usage has shot up 15 per cent in Bangladesh as people are increasingly relying on digital life for communication, work and entertainment to escape the doom and gloom brought on by the novel virus.
Like other parts of the world, more aspects of the daily lives of the people in Bangladesh have moved online. More and more people are working from home as a result of the pandemic.
Many employees of banks, financial institutions, multinationals, private companies and even media outlets are working from home.
People are using more and more internet-based services, watching movies, playing video games and browsing YouTube, pushing up overall internet bandwidth consumption.
Internet traffic has surged soon after the government closed all educational institutions across the country on March 16 in order to limit the spread of lethal, pneumonia-like virus, which has so far sickened 39 and led to the death of four alone in Bangladesh.
Many offices also switched to virtual alternatives to ensure the safety of their staff as well as keep their operations float.
With these developments, the bandwidth use by corporate houses has declined but home consumption has surged more than 30 per cent, said Aminul Hakim, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB).
The ISPs took preparations anticipating that the internet use would go up because of the people's limited movement, said Hakim, adding that they would keep the internet service in full mast to cater to the rising demand.
Bandwidth consumption has mostly increased because people are watching more movies and content on streaming giant Netflix and other platforms, said a top official of an internet gateway (IIG).
IIG provides internet data communication services for connecting with internet service providers at both home and abroad.
Mobile operators also have various video platforms where users can easily enjoy movies, plays and musical contents. Some people are using internet for continuing online tuition, operators say.
"We have witnessed slightly higher data traffic on our network. However, this traffic looks normal," said Mohammad Hasan, head of external communication at Grameenphone.
The market's leading mobile carrier has 4.07 crore active internet connections as of December. Its users consume 1.91 gigabytes (GB) of bandwidth on an average and this would definitely increase, market insiders estimate.
The other mobile operators also witnessed the same increase. In some cases, people are making more calls as there are tensions among them about the spreading virus.
Robi is using 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) connection and is very optimistic that it can meet any spike in demand from customers. The service will be up and running round the clock, said the country's second-largest carrier.
It has about 3.15 crore active internet users at the end of the year and on an average every user was consuming 2.19 GB of bandwidth then, according to a report of its parent company.
Bandwidth is a measure of how much data a network can transfer. Internet providers denote bandwidth speeds in millions of bits per second (Mbps) and billions of bits per second (Gbps). The higher the bandwidth, the faster the speed and when it comes in volume it is referred to as megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB).
Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company (BSCCL), the country's lone submarine cable company, experienced higher hit on its IIG part.
Both ISPs and mobile operators are taking more bandwidth as their retail demand has increased, said Mashiur Rahman, managing director of the state-owned company.
"On our part, we are observing about 10 per cent bandwidth consumption increase and we have taken all preparation to ensure services even in case of emergency n," he said.
Bangladesh currently consumes about 1,600 Gbps bandwidth, up from 970 Gbps a year ago and 300 Gbps in 2016.
Of the total, BSCCL alone is supplying about 970 Gbps through its two undersea connections, while six international terrestrial cable operators are importing the rest from India.
ISPs have also started working from home. They, however, have kept about 30 per cent of the field workforce on standby and they will move in case of any emergency, said Hakim, also the chief executive officer of AmberIT, one of the country's leading ISPs.
The telecoms industry in other countries has reported a spike in data traffic on networks as millions of people were forced to stay home in an attempt to flatten the curve on the highly contagious coronavirus, which has globally infected more than 392,780 and claimed 17,158 lives.