April 20, 2024

Why mobile internet in Bangladesh is not improving fast enough

Internet speed is one of the most important markers of a country’s digital development. But faster Internet requires providing more bandwidth, and that’s easier said than done.

Despite making some progress in its global mobile internet speed performance rankings, Bangladesh still ranks low on Ookla’s Global Speedtest Index, reaching position 105 out of 145 countries in November last year.

In October, the country ranked 111th out of 142 nations.

The average download speed in Bangladesh was 23 Mbps in November, up from 20.66 Mbps in the previous month.

The United Arab Emirates secured the first position with an average download speed of 324.92 Mbps, while even neighboring India secured the 18th position with an average download speed of 94.62 Mbps.

Bangladesh now has over 131.4 million internet users, according to the latest data from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). Of them, more than 118.9 million (more than 95%) are mobile Internet subscribers, while the rest are broadband subscribers.

“There is a positive aspect in the Ookla Speedtest Global Index ranking: Bangladesh’s position is improving, but at a slow pace,” said BM Mainul Hossain, professor at the Institute of Information Technology, University of Dhaka.

Another positive aspect is that the speed does not get worse. If the number of users increases and telcos do not increase bandwidth, it is assumed that speeds will decrease. That means telecom operators are increasing their bandwidth, at a snail’s pace.

“It is still not that satisfactory,” said Professor Mainul. “If you want to watch ultra high definition videos, you’ll need a speed of 25 Mbps, but we don’t have that,” he added.

“This means that it is not enough for maximum quality service. But you cannot deny that the trend is positive if you look back four years.”

Flawed policy is an obstacle to faster Internet

Internet speed is one of the most important markers of a country’s digital development. But faster Internet requires providing more bandwidth, and that’s easier said than done.

In Bangladesh, telecom companies buy bandwidth from middlemen; increasing speed would require them to purchase more bandwidth.

“If telecom companies give more bandwidth to their customers, the price of mobile Internet will increase. Then it will not be affordable for customers from all walks of life,” said Professor Mainul.

If intermediary companies reduce the price of bandwidth, telecommunications companies can also reduce prices and increase the speed of mobile Internet.

Another aspect is that if telecom companies want to transmit data at high speed, they will also have to change their infrastructure. This would imply new investments for telecommunications companies.

Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy researcher at LIRNEasia, an information and communications technology (ICT) policy and regulation think tank in the Asia Pacific region, said that at the heart of a high-price, low-cost Internet quality is the formulation and implementation of the International Long Distance Telecommunications Services (ILDTS) Policy in 2007.

The interim government born after 9/11 formulated the policy to benefit a handful of people. However, the current government still uses that policy and has even expanded it to favor certain people, says Abu Saeed Khan.

He said this policy has given rise to many “middlemen” who are unnecessary and do not exist anywhere else in the world.

The intermediaries are the International Internet Gateway (IIG), the National Telecommunications Transmission Network (NTTN) and the International Gateways (IGW).

As a result, Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators cannot purchase Internet bandwidth directly on the international wholesale market. “Mobile operators are forced to buy bandwidth from IIGs just to make profits for these middlemen,” Khan said. “This goes against the interests of the people in general and the State.”

He noted that ISPs and mobile operators have failed to guarantee the quality of Internet bandwidth to consumers.

“Given that there are three entities, who will they hold responsible: NTTN or IIG, if the bandwidth quality is bad?” Khan asked. “There is no accountability in this system.”

He said the government has created a favorable atmosphere in the market to sell substandard bandwidth, adding that the regulatory body BTRC has not set any standard in wholesale bandwidth.

“Although at retail price, BTRC has set a minimum bandwidth of 10 Mbps to become a broadband service provider. This is contradictory,” he said.

What should be done?

Professor Mainul said if Bangladesh wants to increase mobile internet speed overnight, telecom companies will have to review their infrastructures.

“If the country’s vision is to become a ‘Smart Bangladesh’, this speed will not do,” he said, adding that mobile Internet users can get by with the existing Internet speed, but it does not match the vision of a ‘Smart Bangladesh’. ‘. Smart Bangladesh.’

Internet of Things (IoT) devices are one of the important criteria of a digital country. And data is the raw material of IoT devices. IoT devices have already been used in Dhaka city to monitor air quality. The clothing industry has also started using IoT devices.

A large number of IoT devices are expected to arrive in the country for industrial use. The existing mobile Internet speed is not enough for IoT devices.

The government will have to take the initiative to increase the speed of mobile Internet and reduce the price of bandwidth, Professor Mainul said.

But Abu Saeed Khan said that to increase the speed of mobile internet and ensure quality bandwidth, the government should revoke the licenses of intermediaries.

“The government should take measures so that Internet service providers, as well as mobile operators, can buy bandwidth directly on the international market,” he suggested.

“If ISPs and mobile operators can buy bandwidth in the international market, the price of Internet will come down and rest assured, the quality will be much better,” Khan added.

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