The government failed to develop infrastructure to boost internet connectivity that restricted users only to social media sites, messaging services and some selective websites.
“The growth in bandwidth use is frustrating, although 3G was launched two years ago in Bangladesh,” said M Rokonuzzaman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at North South University in Dhaka.
Half of the bandwidth used today is for voice connectivity, while 90 percent of the remaining bandwidth is spent on browsing social media sites, he added.
“The government needs to develop telecom infrastructure to help people create more income-generating opportunities by using the internet, Rokonuzzaman said. The researcher also pointed at the wrong approach taken by the mobile operators, who massively promote the use of social media sites through the internet.
Costly internet packages and a lack of measures taken by the operators to develop a variety of content are also responsible for slow growth, said Rokonuzzaman.
Six international territorial cable operators and state-owned Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) provide internet bandwidth in Bangladesh.
The use of bandwidth increased nearly 28 percent to 43 Gbps for BSCCL in June from September, when the company slashed wholesale bandwidth prices by around 43 percent on different slabs, said Md Monwar Hossain, managing director of the company.
The bandwidth use will increase when the government will start exporting bandwidth of 10 Gbps to the Seven Sister states of India under a deal signed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. The use of bandwidth of around 136 Gbps for a country like Bangladesh with 5.22 crore active internet connections is poor, said MA Hakim, president of Internet Service Providers Association Bangladesh.
Most bandwidth consumption was concentrated in Dhaka — around 50 Gbps, while Chittagong and Sylhet consumed a combined 10 Gbps, said Hakim.
“We found that very few people make productive use of bandwidth. Even in corporate offices, people mostly use the internet only to check e-mails.”
The government wants to digitise the country, but it failed to establish physical fibre connectivity to increase the number of broadband users, he said.
The market price of the bandwidth used in June is nearly Tk 130 crore; the government should take care of the industry to help it flourish, he added.
Per capita bandwidth use in Bangladesh stands at less than 1 Kbps at present, which was 0.25 Kbps in 2012, Rokonuzzaman said. In 2012, it was 256 Kbps in Singapore and 1 Kbps in India. “The use of bandwidth will increase in Bangladesh with a cut in bandwidth prices. But for moderate growth, the government needs to reduce other taxes and VAT on it and well-planned fibre connectivity needs to be introduced.”
In 2008, Bangladesh used bandwidth of 7.5 Gbps, which increased to 8 Gbps in 2009, 15 Gbps in 2010 and 23 Gbps in 2011, according to BSCCL.
Industry insiders expect the amount to reach 200 Gbps by the year-end.
– Muhammad Zahidul Islam