Source: http://www.thedailystar.net/story.php?nid=140306, Published on 28 May, 2010.
Mobile phone has become a major communication device at family levels, covering around half of all families in Bangladesh, says a study of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Mobile phone is seemed as a great tool of building Digital Bangladesh.
A Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) survey also shows that mobile usage at household levels mainly began rising in 2005. It also means that a stiff price war that began in the same year mainly contributed to dispersing the technology.
According to the survey, 48.3 percent households owned mobile phones at the end of 2009, whereas there were 2.2 percent land phone users at household levels. In 2005, only 10 percent households were covered by mobile phones, says the survey. According to the last census by BBS held in 2001, the total number of households was 25.4 million.
The Welfare Monitoring Survey (WMS) covered as many as 14,000 households for the country as a whole as sample size. Under the preview, there were 8,400 rural households and 5,600 urban households.
The mobile technology was introduced in Bangladesh in 1993. The device gradually became popular among users when the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) was launched in 1997. However, the high price of the technology kept it away from the general public until 2005.
Industry insiders said the revolutionary entry of the mobile technology at household levels mainly happened because of the countrywide coverage and availability of the technology.
“I came here to buy a mobile connection because it is near my house,” said Mahbuba Haque, who was standing at a small shop near Maghbazar intersection. Mahbuba said she bought the mobile for home use. She said she is more comfortable in using her mobile to communicate with people. The different value added services also attract her to use mobiles. Citing an example, she said, through a mobile conference call, I can talk to several relatives at a time, which is truly a nice way of social communication.
Voice communication through mobile telephony started with CDMA (code division multiple access), which was introduced by Pacific Bangladesh Telecom Ltd — the owning company of Citycell — in 1993.
The expensive communication device started to become handy after the introduction of GSM by Grameenphone and Robi (then known as AKTEL) in 1997.
Banglalink and state-run TeleTalk launched their services in 2005 and Warid came in 2007.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) data shows that the number of customers under the mobile networks reached 52.43 million at the end of 2009. As of April 2010, the number of mobile users was 56.43 million, according to BTRC.
On the other hand, only 1.03 million customers were tagged with landline telecom services at the end of April 2010.
Oddvar Hesjedal, chief executive officer of Grameenphone, said: “The mobile communication will be a major driver to achieve a Digital Bangladesh. It took 15 years to reach the first 50 million customers; I feel that in the right business environment, the next 50 million subscribers will happen much faster,” he said.
However, a real hurdle to such development is the SIM tax, which makes new connections more expensive, he said.
“The mobile technology has brought about a revolution here,” said Zakiul Islam, president of Association of Mobile Telecommunications Operators of Bangladesh.
“If some tax structures are eased, the market will grow further,” he said.