Operators of WiMAX, a wireless broadband system, lost 63.14 percent of their customers over the last two years as users opted for mobile internet for ease of use and greater connectivity.
At the end of May, the three WiMAX operators had 1.88 lakh active users, down from 2.91 lakh a year ago, according to the telecom regulator.
In the two years to May 2015, when the WiMAX operators saw their subscriber base shrink, the number of total internet users rose to 4.74 crore. About 97 percent of them use mobile internet.
The limited coverage of WiMAX (worldwide interoperability for microwave access) is the major reason why the operators are losing customers. The service is mostly available in city areas, whereas 3G connectivity can be found in nearly all parts of Bangladesh.
The full-fledged introduction of 3G services by the four major mobile operators towards the end of 2013 cut into WiMax business, officials said.
“After the 3G rollout, most young users switched to it,” said GM Faruq Khan, head of marketing and communication of Banglalion, a leading WiMAX operator.
Banglalion boasted about four lakh subscribers at its peak in June 2013, but now it has only 1.01 lakh, he said.
Qubee, another major WiMAX operator, has 86,482 subscribers now, down from 1.25 lakh during the most buoyant time in 2013.
Faisal Hyder, chief executive officer of Qubee, said they could not flourish in the absence of a level-playing field.
Banglalion and Qubee, which got licences in an open auction in 2008 at Tk 215 crore each, had 5.05 lakh active users in total in June 2013.
“WiMAX has limited scope compared to other technologies now available in the market,” said Igor Grakovich, chief executive officer of Bangladesh Internet Exchange which owns the WiMAX brand Ollo.
All major vendors in the world have stopped producing WiMAX network equipment, dongles or other devices.
Grakovich of Ollo, which received its licence in 2013, said the number of its users has now come down to around 20,000 from 25,000 a year ago. But the telecom regulator said Ollo has no active subscribers now.
Ollo officials said they are also establishing their 4G network, which is the fastest mode of wireless connectivity in the world as of now.
Ollo will opt for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard, which is now the standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals.
Both 4G and LTE are the fastest mode of wireless connectivity.
Had there been a favourable environment, the combined subscriber base would have reached ten lakh by now, said the WiMAX operators, which also face competition from some internet service providers, who in partnership with top mobile phone operators, are offering high-speed internet.