Mobile operators passed a very successful 2017 adding a record number of customers to their networks and connecting more people to internet, in a massive boost to the government's Digital Bangladesh vision.
Overall internet connections grew 20.87 percent year-on-year to 8.05 crore, according to a report of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) that was published yesterday.
Mobile phone operators acquired 1.87 crore new users, recouping the loss they suffered in 2016 because of biometric re-registration. At the end of 2017, active SIMs totalled 14.45 crore.
The previous highest number of SIMs added in a single year was 1.66 crore recorded in 2013. Some 1.25 crore internet users were added to the network in 2016, the previous highest.
Last year mobile and other operators added 1.39 crore new internet connections, clocking 14.79 percent year-on-year growth. In the year, two crore internet connections turned into 3G, said top executives of a number of mobile operators.
The total number of active 3G connections stood at 6.04 crore at the end of 2017, BTRC data showed.
Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the BTRC, said, “This is a massive growth and the credit also goes to the telecom operators as they are expanding networks and offering affordable services.”
The telecom regulator is trying to introduce new technologies that are already in place in the developed world, he said.
Mahmood also said the industry was facing challenges when it comes to ensuring high quality service. The situation will, however, improve once operators get technological neutrality.
Technological neutrality gives operators the scope to use their spectrum efficiently and offer faster data services, which ultimately translate into better service for customers. Mahmood said the growth in mobile and internet connections would help achieve the government's digitalisation objective quickly.
Among the mobile operators, Robi, that merged with Airtel and added the latter's customers to its base, acquired the highest number of active connections at 90.77 lakh. At the end of the year, Robi and Airtel together had 4.29 crore active SIMs, cementing its second position in the market.
Market leader Grameenphone acquired 73.73 lakh new connections and ended the year with 6.53 crore active customers. Third-placed Banglalink added only 14.10 lakh new subscribers to take its tally to 3.34 crore. State-owned Teletalk added 8.61 lakh new customers to take the number of its users to 44.94 lakh, according to the BTRC report.
Of the internet connections added last year, 1.23 crore were mobile phone-based and 15.23 lakh fixed broadband based.
Wimax operators, however, continued their downward trend, ending the year with 89,000 connections compared to 93,000 in 2016.
Industry people said internet connections, especially through mobile phones, would flourish massively in 2018 as the government is due to launch 4G service within a few months.
“After the service is rolled out, more SIMs will get connected to internet and machines would also run through mobile internet connections,” said a senior official of a mobile phone operator.