4G: telcos grin, users frown | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 13, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 13, 2018

4G: telcos grin, users frown

Data consumption doubles since launch of service

Data consumption by the 4G users has doubled since the fourth-generation service was launched seven weeks ago, but customers' overall experience has not been satisfying so far.

Customers who used to consume 500mbps to 600mbps a month before the inauguration of the service on February 19 have had their consumption level crossed 1GB across all operators.

Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink—the top three mobile phone operators who have launched 4G—said they are getting a huge response from the customers.

State-run Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company said it has received orders to supply an additional 40 Gbps bandwidth since the launch of 4G.

The state agency sells bandwidth to international internet gateways who again sell it to operators.

But a majority of the customers are yet to come under the fastest data service network and those who are availing it are not happy with the overall service. 

Some customers are even reluctant to move to 4G as they are dissatisfied with the existing services.

Md Noor Hossain, a pharmacist living in Hatirjheel area of the capital, has started using 4G recently.

He said he is unable to use the service as the area is not covered by the fourth-generation technology.

Shariful Islam, who lives in Mirpur, has gone even a step further. He collected SIMs of the top operators but he can use the service only in a few parts of the city, he said.

Market leader Grameenphone said it is getting a huge response from the market.

“The customers who are 4G ready (already replaced their SIM and using 4G-enabled smartphone) and live within the 4G coverage area, are enjoying the significantly faster data speed,” said Sayed Talat Kamal, head of external communications at Grameenphone.

None of the operators, however, shared their number of 4G users.

But a number of officials of the operators who are related with the process said the industry has already crossed one crore milestone in terms of 4G users as the adoption rate is much higher than it was in case of 3G.

Operators are upgrading their network across the country and every day thousands of new customers' are embracing the new service.

However, the low penetration of 4G-enabled smartphones is one of the bottlenecks that are standing in the way of the faster growth of the service.

“The main barrier to this new technology is very low penetration of 4G-enabled handsets,” said Ekram Kabir, vice-president for communications and corporate responsibility at Robi.

He said Robi has seen only 50 percent of the customers with 4G-enabled handsets are enjoying the service while the rest has not swapped their 3G SIMs with 4G ones.

Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer of Banglalink, said: “The penetration of 4G-enabled handset is still very low, so we can't expect 4G to make a big impact unless a considerable number of users start using 4G-enabled handsets.”

 

The telecom regulator has recently taken up an initiative to expedite the process of assembling locally made 4G handsets.

It held meetings with the parties that have applied to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to set up mobile handset assembling plants.

“We are doing our part and now mobile handsets makers and mobile operators will have to make 4G successful,” said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of BTRC.

He said the commission will soon start collecting official response from the operators about the 4G growth trend.

Grameenphone and Banglalink have covered selected areas of divisional cities and some other major cities as part of their rollout plan, which aims at ensuring better customer experience rather than fast expansion.

Second largest operator Robi said it has covered all 64 districts since the launch of 4G and has installed more than 3,000 fourth generation sites across the country within a month of the launch.

Banglalink's primary target is to bring 30 percent areas of the country under the 4G network by June this year, said Rahman of the company.

State-owned Teletalk is yet to start any formal process to deploy its 4G network. Recently, it has drafted a plan to roll out the network in major cities by August.

Meanwhile, 15 lakh iPhone users are failing to access 4G because of the US phonemaker's reluctance to unlock the sets' country lock for Bangladesh. But most of these customers live in cities and are heavy internet users, according to operators.

 

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