The number of the country's active internet connections increased about 20 percent year-on-year to 8.78 crore at the end of June on the back of fast-growing mobile internet and the government's push for digitalisation.
The internet industry added more than 1.44 crore active connections in the last one year, according to a report of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission published recently.
Since the launch of 3G in September 2013, mobile internet connections rose 134.38 percent, driving digitalisation, said industry leaders.
Thanks to the launch of 4G in February this year, subscribers are getting higher speed and the fourth-generation technology is expected to boost the internet connections further.
“Internet has become the main tool of digital life in recent times, and in Bangladesh, users have been adopting it more and more in the last few years,” said Md Jahurul Haque, acting chairman of the commission.
Mobile internet became available in Bangladesh in 2005 and after the launch of 3G, the number of users started to jump.
“Still, we have miles to go to reach our optimum level. However, the success that the industry has so far achieved needs to be celebrated,” said MA Hakim, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB).
Initially, broadband internet users were largely concentrated in three major cities, namely Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. After the government developed the high-speed networking channel, broadband expanded to district and upazila levels.
A decade ago, there were 10 lakh to 12 lakh broadband connections. It has now reached 56.85 lakh, said Hakim, who has more than 20 years' of experience in internet business. The country's bandwidth consumption also grew: from 5 to 6 Gbps a decade ago to 670 Gbps at present.
Of the bandwidth, 85 percent is being used by the broadband network, Hakim said. The ISPAB chief hailed the mobile operators for boosting the internet users' number in Bangladesh.
Mahmud Hossain, chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone, is, however, not happy with the mobile phone operators' overall performance in this regard.
“It is true that the number has increased noticeably. But I think we are at a primary level when it comes to internet using. The use has just started.”
Mobile internet users numbered 8.20 crore at the end of June, meaning out of the country's 15.09 crore active mobile connections, 54.34 percent have internet connections.
When 3G was launched, mobile internet connections stood at 3.65 crore.
The mobile industry added more than 1 crore new connections every year on an average to their network in the last five years.
However, quality service is still an issue.
Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar said the government is very close to establishing a digital country as per its promises.
“In many cases, we have achieved our targets, and internet usage is one of the achievements though there are quality issues.”
He said the industry has reached a stage in terms of numbers and if quality improves, it will ultimately take the industry to a mature level.
He said the government is working to improve the service quality and hopes it will help add more people to the internet network.
Jabbar said the industry will grow further as the Internet of Things and other related devices will need connections.
When televisions and air conditioners are linked with the internet, the number of connections will go up and even surpass the figure of the total population, he said.