The growth of internet in the first nine months of the year has been the lowest in three years despite the roll out of the faster 4G mobile data service in February.
Between the months of January and September, 1.07 crore active internet connections were added, down 15.08 percent from a year earlier, according to a report of the Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commi-ssion published on Thursday. With the new additions, the total number of active internet connections at the end of September was 9.12 crore. Of them, 93.63 percent are using mobile internet and 6.29 percent fixed broadband.
When the 3G service was launched in 2013, the telecom industry saw exponential growth, according to industry insiders. But the same shift was not seen when 4G service was introduced.
“Smartphones and internet-enabled handsets are a prerequisite for the growth of mobile internet users,” said Sayed Talat Kamal, head of external communications of Grameenphone, the country's leading mobile operator.
In 2018, Grameenphone, which has 3.63 crore internet subscribers, has seen a slower uptake of smartphones, which has impacted mobile internet usage growth, he added.
The government has revised upwards the duty structure for mobile handsets and increased the taxes on different segments, which impacted the internet adoption rate.
The quality of 60 percent of the handsets in Bangladesh is poor, said Shahed Alam, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Robi.
As a result, the number of internet users might not increase, as they would not be able to get the best out of the fast data speed offered by 4G.
“In the last few months, we have seen that the import of smartphones, especially the 4G-enabled ones, has almost halted,” Alam told reporters at a workshop in Dhaka on Tuesday. The industry had asked the government to withdraw the tax on handsets for at least the next two years to help it to grow.
“This would have given a push to the government's digitalisation vision too,” he said, adding that the demands were not met.
The number of internet users would not escalate if the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence technologies are not adopted, said a top official of another operator.
“Once home appliances are connected to the internet, the number will become much higher,” said the senior executive, who has been working in this field for more than a decade. He also said the internet users' number was not directly linked to 4G.
4G offers the fastest mobile internet and that is related to using more data. Only 3G users have shifted to the 4G technology but it has not added new users, the official said.