The number of Internet users in Bangladesh increased in March thanks to the increased use of mobile data and broadband services for education, entertainment and business purposes amid the improving Covid-19 situation.
The number of internet users grew by 7.31% year-on-year in March to 12.48 crores, according to the latest data from the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
On a monthly basis, the growth was 1.71%, meaning there were about 21 lakh more customers connected to the internet in March compared to February.
Of the 21 lakh new users, mobile internet users accounted for about 13 lakh, bringing their total number to 11.39 crore, while broadband users increased by 8 lakh to 1.09 crore.
Mobile and broadband internet services have seen an increase in usage since the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020.
Mobile network operators have added around 1.8 basic internet users since February this year, while broadband connections have nearly doubled in the same time.
Mustafa Jabbar, the post and telecommunications minister, said internet usage was increasing as the pandemic made the world dominated by data.
“If the number of internet users drops at any time, it will be temporary,” he added.
However, around 74 lakh customers were lost by network operators from November 2021 to January this year compared to last October’s figures when the number of mobile internet users hit an all-time high of 11.91 crore.
Mobile internet usage rebounded from February as operators added 25 lakh subscribers from February to March.
According to Mohammed Shahedul Alam, Managing Director and Chief Regulatory Officer at Robi, the increase in smartphone penetration and spectrum usage has helped to increase mobile internet usage during this period.
Three mobile network operators – Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink – have collectively purchased 27.4 megahertz of spectrum for $885.35 million to ease the strain on their overloaded networks and improve their services following the rise in the number subscribers.
“Despite purchasing the spectrum last year, we were unable to fully deploy it as we were waiting for equipment imports,” Alam said.
“Now spectrum cropping is complete and user experience has improved accordingly, contributing to the boom of mobile internet users,” he added.
Spectrum reframing refers to the reallocation of frequency bands to more efficient technologies or new services.
According to the BTRC, the share of smartphones among locally produced mobile phones increased from 33.55% in January to 40.24% in March.
Alam said smartphone penetration in the country now stands at 52%, up from 47% at the end of last year. This means that out of 100 phone owners, there are at least 52 who use smartphones.
However, Posts and Telecommunications Minister Jabbar said network operators have yet to give customers the satisfaction of quality internet services.
“But operators bought an additional 190 megahertz of spectrum for $1.23 billion in March, which will strengthen their network going forward,” he added.
In the mobile subscriber segment, the four major operators – Grameenphone, Robi, Banglalink and Teletalk – made gains in new customer acquisition by adding around 14,000 customers in March.
On a yearly basis, growth was around 4.6% for that month.
The total number of mobile phone customers of market leader Grameenphone rose 3.85% year-on-year to 8.38 crores in March from 8.07 crores previously.
The operator added around seven lakh new customers that month.
The number of customers of Robi Axiata, the second-largest mobile operator which passed the milestone of 5 crore subscribers in September 2020, increased by 4.1% year-on-year in March to reach 5.37 crore.
In the same month in 2021, it was 5.19 crore.
The network provider added three lakh new customers that month.
Third-placed Banglalink grew its customer base by around 5% year-on-year in March to 3.80 crore.
The carrier also added about more than three lakh new customers that month.
The number of customers of state-owned Teletalk, which lags far behind all private operators, rose 22.50% year-on-year in March to 68.9 lakh adding about 10,000 new customers this month -the.