Globally there are 160 crore mobile phones that have broadband capacity who are connected with the high speed internet, while the world has 710 crore people; that means only one fourth people are getting the service. But if we consider the number for Bangladesh it is more and more frustrating for us.
In Bangladesh, the number of mobile users is 11 crore but how many of them use broadband enabled handsets or smartphones that can get the access to the high speed internet? Again the number would be more frustrating.
Currently around 15 lakh households or offices have access to the broadband as fixed internet service was never developed in Bangladesh. In fact the country could not build such institutions that can provide the broadband service to the doorsteps of the people.
In the situation, mobile broadband can be the finest solution for the country to provide broadband services in a fastest manner. It is true, mobile broadband may not be able to provide huge bandwidth supply such as high quality video services, but it can meet the basic demand of the people.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), there are 3.7 crore internet users in the country though there are criticisms against the information that these connections are not active and the number is of course less than 1 crore.
Less than 1 crore internet users in a country where 16 crore people live! Now the million dollar question comes; “how many of them use smartphones or mobile broadband.” The percentage would not be more than 30 percent, though a huge number of Chinese mobile handsets are imported to the country that are 3G enabled.
Not all is negative, there are hopes also. Bangladesh government issued 3G licenses to four private mobile operators in September. The operators launched the service within a year of the license issue. Not only that, the operators will reach the network service to the people far ahead than government's roll out obligation.
The country is far lagging behind from the developed world in terms of 3G deployment but still there is hope as the operators have invested lots of money to roll out the network in a competitive manner. They also are trying to provide WiFi and WiMax services with the assistance of other companies.
At the same time, the WiMax operators in the country are also working to offload 4G service (long term evolution) in the country as they have already received the license from the government.
Now the challenge is how the private and public sector contribute to create internet content that can be used for real development of the country. Facebook or other social media cannot be a good example to declare the high user base of internet. People should get all the necessary services through digital devices.
However, the government has also taken a project to reach internet broadband to 1 lakh institutions including Schools, Colleges, Hospitals and other public and autonomous offices.
The writer is Senior Correspondent, The Daily Star.