The WiMAX business is facing a blow following a major expansion of 3G (third generation) internet service by the mobile phone operators since October last year.
As a result, the companies providing WiMAX facility are planning to introduce LTE (Long Term Evolution) service for their survival, industry insiders said.
Within almost one year, WiMAX operators' subscription has dropped by about 40 per cent as the subscriber base which was around 0.5 million in June 2013 has now reached nearly 0.296 million.
On the other hand, the number of mobile internet users - both 2G and 3G -- stood at around 35 million until April this year, according to the data of the telecom regulator.
Two operators - Banglalion and Qubee - have mainly been providing the broadband internet service using WiMAX technology since 2009.
Top officials of the companies admitted that their service faced setback due to 3G service, but they are planning to compensate the loss by aggressive marketing after launching LTE.
However, the officials did not clarify when they will market the LTE service which has several times more potential for data service than 3G.
Head of Market Communications at Banglalion GM Faruk Khan told the FE that 3G service was a threat to us in the beginning due to the hype of the new service, but those days are gone and the customers are returning to their service again.
He said the 3G service could not fulfil the demand of ultimate internet service which is possible by the WiMAX technology. Mr Khan expected that the LTE service will offset its negative growth.
"Any new service needs to attain maturity; that is why we are testing the LTE service before coming to the market," said the Banglalion official.
Head of marketing at Qubee Tasneem Ayub also admitted that WiMAX service definitely faced competition with the 3G service.
"But we can recoup the loss of subscribers after LTE launching," he told the FE.
Mr Ayub said his company has already finalised vendor selection for network swapping, but it might not be possible to deploy the service within this year.
He said, "Before launching the service, we have to think about a lot of issues, of which device compatibility is a major one."
The existing two WiMAX companies are also getting new competitors in the same business. Bangladesh Internet Exchange Ltd (BIEL), brand name Ollo, and Grameenphone along with two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) -- Agni Systems Ltd and ADN Telecom Ltd - have launched the WiMAX internet service recently in the country.
According to the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) guideline, the WiMAX operators - Banglalion and Qubee - were supposed to reach their coverage to 64 districts including upazilas and villages in phases by five years of receiving licence.
However, the operators that obtained licence in 2008 have fulfilled the roll-out obligation only partially; but they could not even comply with the provision of achieving subscriber base of 0.5 million each within five years, sources said.
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