Adnan Hossain Bhuiyan
The number of subscribers of wireless broadband internet services in Bangladesh is declining precipitously, as the three existing operators lag behind in competition with the telecom giants.
The three wireless internet operators -- Banglalion, Qubee and Ollo -- use Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technologies. They have lost more than three-fourths of their customers during the last four years.
According to internet subscribers' data, published by Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) at the end of August 2016, the three wireless internet providers now have only 104,000 users, down from 467,000 as of November 2012.
Despite exponential growth in internet use during the last couple of years across the country, the number of subscribers of the WiMAX operators has declined by 77.73 per cent or around 363,000.
The number of internet subscribers in the country reached 62.25 million at the end of August 2016, vividly dominated by 58.36 million mobile internet users.
At present, mobile internet accounts for around 93.77 per cent of the total internet users and wireless internet merely 0.75 per cent.
The industry insiders said the expeditious expansion of third generation (3G) internet by the mobile phone operators is the main reason behind the fall of the number of WiMAX internet users in Bangladesh.
They said though the WiMAX operators have offered faster 4G internet a few months after introduction 3G technology by the telecom giants, the subscribers have not shown much interest in the service offered by the former due to the advantage of countrywide network of the mobile companies.
The government auctioned the 3G spectrum in September 2012. The mobile operators launched the service the next month, and subsequently went into rapid expansion of the 3G network coverage throughout the country.
Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Ltd entered the market in October 2009 under the brand name Qubee. Banglalion Communications Ltd launched its operation in November of the same year. Both of them use WiMAX technology.
Ollo wireless internet by Bangladesh Internet Exchange Ltd started operation in October 2011, using both WiMAX and LTE technologies.
Talking to the FE, a top official of Qubee said the WiMAX operators lost a large number of general customers during the last two years because of 3G internet penetration by the private telecom companies across the country.
He said the cellphone operators beat the WiMAX operators within a short time because of their network coverage in almost every area.
Responding to a query about future of wireless internet in Bangladesh, he said despite losing general subscribers, Qubee saw growth in the number of high-value corporate customers.
WiMAX operators would go for faster LTE internet technology after having permission from the regulatory body, the official added.
Availability of smart-phones at lower prices is one of the major reasons behind the fast increase in the mobile internet use during the last couple of years.
According to Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers' Association (BMPIA), import of smart-phones rose by 57.44 per cent in the first half of the calendar year 2016 from that a year earlier.
Between January and June this year, 3.57 million smart-phones were brought to the country, and the importers look to bring in about 9.0 million more this year.
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