Only 7.43 per cent of the country’s mobile phone subscribers are using the fourth generation (4G) mobile phone service even after ten months of the launch of the high-speed service.
Three mobile phone operators — Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink — launched the service in February 19 last year after receiving licences from Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on the same day.
State-run Teletalk, however, launched the service in December, 2018 despite receiving the licence along with the three private sector mobile operators in February last year.
As per the BTRC’s latest statistics, the number of 4G subscribers reached 1.17 crore at the end of December, 2018, while the number of active mobile phone users in the country stood at 15.70 crore.
Mobile phone operators blamed high prices of 4G-enabled devices as the reason for the slow growth in the 4G penetration.
But mobile handset importers said that lack of 4G-enabled products depending on the capacity of the mobile phone subscribers was another reason for the slow growth in 4G penetration.
Asked, acting BTRC chairman Md Jahurul Haque told New Age, ‘Although 4G penetration is yet to reach our expected level, the existing number of 4G subscribers is not dissatisfactory at all.’
‘Lack of affordability of the country’s mobile phone users to purchase 4G-enabled devices including handsets is a major problem for 4G penetration,’ he said.
‘We are already in discussion with a local handset manufacturer so that it can bring affordable 4G-enabled handsets at the market,’ he said.
‘Providing local manufacturers financial support from the BTRC’s social obligation fund of around Tk 1,300 crore might help them bring affordable 4G-enabled handsets at the market,’ Jahurul said.
Of the total mobile phone subscribers in the country, 40.54 per cent, or 6.35 crore, use 3G internet service.
The number of internet users in the country grew significantly in 2013 when the 3G internet service was launched. The number of internet subscribers grew slowly in 2018 despite the launch of faster internet service.
Apart from the users of 3G and 4G services, another 1.03 crore or 6.58 per cent of the mobile phone subscribers use internet through 2G service.
A total of 8.56 crore or 54.48 per cent of the country’s mobile phone subscribers use internet through handsets.
Although the government in the fiscal years of 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 formulated taxation policies supporting local manufacturing and assembling of smartphones, it increased duty on import of finished handsets.
As per BTRC guidelines, mobile operators are supposed to provide 160 kilobits per second download speed in 2G service and 2Mbps in 3G service.
In the case of 4G, mobile phone operators are supposed to maintain 7Mbps download speed and 1Mbps upload speed.