Bangladesh stands next to Nepal in smartphone usage in South Asia: GSMA report

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Digital technologies, mobile in particular, will be crucial to implementing the government’s 2041 Perspective Plan, achieving the SDGs and recovering economically in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report of the GSMA.

Recently, a GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Associations) report has revealed the findings about smartphone and 4G users in South Asia. The report titled “Achieving mobile-enabled digital inclusion in Bangladesh” — was published on March 30 (Tuesday). 

Smartphone users in Bangladesh accounts for 41 per cent of the total mobile users, which is less than that of Nepal as 53 per cent mobile users use smartphones in Nepal. The rate is 60 per cent in Sri Lanka, 51 per cent in Pakistan and 69 per cent in India. The report also said, 59 per cent mobile users in Bangladesh still use feature phones.

GSMA Intelligence stated, the government could take 95 per cent Bangladeshi people under the 4G coverage. The telecommunication operators of the country are hopeful about the 4G coverage.  

Among the mobile phone users of Bangladesh, 47 per cent are under 2G, 25 per cent under 3G, 28 per cent under 4G network coverage. In addition, mobile connections are more than 17 crores in the country. On the other hand, according to the regulatory board BTRC, the total number of internet users is around 11 crore 27 lakh.

As per the mobile phone operators, all the mobile towers of the Grameenphone and Robi have been registered under the 4G. 92 per cent mobile towers of Banglalink are in the 4G coverage.  

Associates said the expansion of 4G network is facing disruption due to inadequate 4G smartphone sets. Although total users increased as 4G sets are being manufactured in the country.

Although GSMA are talking about 41 per cent smartphone users, the local manufacturer informed that the number can be 32 or 34 per cent.

The GSMA report also states that enhancing digital inclusion, by increasing the coverage and usage of the mobile internet, will be essential to maximising the impact of digital technologies on the government’s development aspirations.

The new GSMA report analyses the barriers to coverage and usage of the mobile internet in Bangladesh, and concludes with recommendations on how to strengthen efforts to increase mobile internet adoption and support infrastructure deployment.

A virtual roundtable discussion was also organised on the day, jointly by GSMA and the AMTOB, where stakeholders from the government, regulator, mobile industry, and development community discussed how Bangladesh can advance digital inclusion by addressing two of the country’s key barriers to mobile internet usage and adoption: affordability and digital knowledge and skills.

Mustafa Jabbar, minister of posts and telecommunications, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of digital technologies in keeping our citizens connected; and the need to accelerate the progress of digital transformation in Bangladesh.”

He also said, “The ministry recognises the urgency of this and remains committed to ensuring that everyone in Bangladesh can utilise the Internet in order to be a part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“To achieve this, we will continue to work collaboratively with key stakeholders, including the mobile industry, to understand and address the barriers that prevent the people of Bangladesh from using the internet.”

Julian Gorman, head of APAC, GSMA said, “The internet drives economic growth, so improving access to and usage of the mobile internet remains a key priority for the GSMA. This GSMA report provides insights on what can be done to address the barriers to mobile internet access and adoption.

“We remain at hand to help both our members and the government achieve our shared goal of leveraging the full power of the mobile internet to connect more citizens and further drive digital inclusion.”

Mahtab Uddin Ahmed, AMTOB president, said, “The report shows us that there is a significant gap between 4G coverage and usage of 4G services. Addressing the factors behind these key issues such as 4G device availability & affordability and digital skills will be fundamental to ensuring a Digital Bangladesh for All.

He said the mobile industry will continue its work to improve access to and usage of the mobile internet, and calls on the government to implement the report’s recommendation to aid us in doing so”

In addition, 14 organizations have taken licenses to manufacture mobile phones domestically. Nokia is the latest grabbing license. 9 factories have started their operations. At present, the shortage of chipset and memory are impacting the global mobile machineries supply chain.  

Mesbah Uddin, Chief Market Officer of FAIR Group informed that they had produced 5G phone sets of several models last year. Customers liked those phone sets as 4G could also be enabled in those sets. 

He added that less than 10 per cent are 3G smartphones of the total current number of phone sets produced, while 29 per cent of the total are 4G handsets and the rest are feature phones. He expressed hope for 4G handsets as the customers are now switching more towards 4G handsets due to increased 4G network coverage. Thus, it is highly likely that the number of smartphone users will increase at a steep rate.

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