There are more than 12 crore internet users in Bangladesh, but among them, more than 11 crore users are mobile internet users. On the other hand, the users of ISP or PSTN are a little over one crore. However, a decade ago, in February 2012, out of 31 million Internet users in the country, only 3 million (296,000,000+) were mobile Internet users, and only 12 million users used ISP or PSTN. One of the reasons behind the country’s mobile internet adoption in the last ten years is the launch of high-speed internet services like 3G and 4G and the low-cost data facility by the four mobile operators in the country. As a result, Bangladesh ranks 4th among South Asian countries and 18th globally for its affordable internet service. But, where the prices of other commodities are going up in the country, why is the price of mobile internet in Bangladesh so low?
In the past decade, the number of internet users in Bangladesh has increased almost four times. One of the main reasons for the rapid growth of mobile internet subscribers is the availability of low-cost usable internet. Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink, Airtel, and Teletalk are the five mobile operators currently providing mobile internet services in Bangladesh. According to the Dhaka Tribune, in 2013, Bangladeshi mobile operators charged an average of BDT 200 to BDT 300 per GB of a data package. For example, Grameenphone used to charge BDT 300 and Banglalink BDT 275 for a 1 GB data pack. However, at present, this scenario is very different.
Grameenphone’s 3-day 1GB data pack costs only BDT 38, and a 15-day data pack costs only BDT 96. On the other hand, the price of the data pack increases with the increasing validity, but with the increase in volume, the price per GB also decreases. For example, a 30-day 45 GB data pack costs BDT 599, so the average price per GB of data is around BDT 13.33, which is comparatively very low. On the other hand, according to cable.co.uk, the average cost per GB data pack in the USA is $3.33, equivalent to BDT 286. In Switzerland, it is $20.22, which is more than that BDT 1700, which is almost skyrocketing compared to the price of mobile internet in Bangladesh.
According to cable.co.uk, a GB data pack costs $0.34 or 34 cents in Bangladesh is $0.38 or 38 cents in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, other South Asian countries, such as Afghanistan, charge $1.02 per GB data pack, and Nepal charges $0.61 or 61 cents. Therefore, the internet price in Bangladesh is much more affordable in the whole South Asian region.
Reasons Behind Cheap Internet
The main reason for getting such an affordable mobile internet service in Bangladesh is competition. Customers are required to buy a handset from the mobile network operator while buying a new connection, which is a revenue-generating source for the operators. But on the other hand, getting new connections in Bangladesh is relatively easy and affordable. As a result, operators do not generate much revenue from new connections; in fact, they have been selling new connections at a loss for a long time.
Mobile operators worldwide also have various revenue-generating sources ranging from talk time and data packs to broadband internet, cable TV networks, and content media. On the other hand, the primary revenue-generating source for the mobile network operators in Bangladesh is the sale of talk time and data packs. Although mobile operators offer various value-added services, consumers in Bangladesh do not avail of those added services. Therefore, the companies were doing competitive pricing of call rates and data packs to retain more subscribers in such a situation. In addition, state-owned mobile operator Teletalk was coming up with affordable call rates and data packs. As a result, to sustain in the market, it was essential for the rest of the operators to develop affordable data packs. Due to such competitive pricing, the internet price in Bangladesh is so affordable.
Although mobile operators offer data packs to consumers, they mainly buy bandwidth in bulk from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited. As a result of buying in bulk, mobile operators are able to buy bandwidth at a much lower price. Although currently, the country has a bandwidth capacity of 3345.65 Gbps, it is possible to meet the local demand with 2496.48 Gbps. On the other hand, 10 Gbps bandwidth is exported to Tripura, India. As such, a lot of bandwidth in Bangladesh remains unused. To increase bandwidth use in 2021, the government reduced the price of bandwidth. As a result, mobile network operators are also able to offer data packs to consumers at low prices as they can buy bandwidth in bulk at low prices.
In addition, according to The Daily Star, the total number of ISPs in Bangladesh is 2000, and the number of IIGs is 37, which is constantly increasing. In terms of pricing, customers are now getting broadband internet facilities at a lower price than mobile Internet. The government has set the price of broadband Internet for each ISP. As a result, mobile operators are further lowering the cost of their data packs to compete with ISPs or broadband Internet. There are more mobile internet subscribers than ISP and PSTN internet subscribers. Apart from all these reasons, mobile Internet is becoming faster than before. With the use of 3G and 4G internet technology, mobile operators in Bangladesh can also provide better service at a lower cost.
In March 2022, Hon’ble Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Mustafa Jabbar instructed that unused data from the expired data packs would be integrated with the data pack purchased later. Consumers can buy internet data at affordable prices as expired and unused data is added with new data packs.
The internet rate will be uniform to make the country’s Internet more consumer-friendly says BTRC. Since the price of broadband Internet in Bangladesh was lowered, the number of subscribers to the service has continually increased. In the case of mobile Internet, if a uniform rate is fixed, customers will get the opportunity to use mobile Internet at a lower cost than before.