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Mobile internet subscriber base shrinks due to high inflation

Arifur Rahman Rabbi
08 Mar 2024 21:43:36 | Update: 08 Mar 2024 21:43:36
Mobile internet subscriber base shrinks due to high inflation

When the country’s people are struggling to make ends meet due to high inflation, it also affects mobile internet subscriber retention. According to the official data, the number of mobile internet subscribers has decreased sharply in the last six months.

Mentioning that a person is considered a mobile and internet user only if s/he has used it once in the last 90 days, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has said that the number of mobile SIM users in Bangladesh is around 19 crore.

As of January this year, the total number of internet users in the country was around 12 crore 91 lakh 80,000. Out of this, 11 crore 63 lakh are mobile internet subscribers and others are broadband subscribers, they said.

BTRC's website shows that the number of mobile internet subscribers was 11 crore 97 lakh 90,000 in August last year while it stood at 11 crore 63 lakh in January this year. It meant that the number of mobile internet customers dropped by around 34,90,000 in the last six months.

Bangladesh has been witnessing high Inflation for the last one and a half years. This rate was close to 10 per cent throughout last year.

Food inflation exceeded 12.5 per cent in August 2023, which was the highest in last one decade. Overall inflation was 9.86 per cent in January this year.

The people involved with the sector say that the reduction in the people’s purchasing power due to high inflation is a major reason for a decrease in the mobile internet customers. Besides, the operators launched a new mobile data package in October 15 last year under the guidance of BTRC.

Since then, 3-day and 15-day data packages have been discontinued along with reduction in the number of packages. Now 7-day or 30-day or unlimited validity packages are offered, they said.

IT sector analyst and former secretary general of Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) TIM Nurul Kabir told The Business Post that they are deeply worried by the decline in internet customers. “In fact, the people prefer most necessary things first within their capabilities. Inflation is certainly a factor here.”

Grassroots level people like labourers, rickshaw-pullers, and domestic helps use mobile internet for entertainment, watching movie, pictures and games, he said. “Nowadays people's multi-demand has been created, if they have money, they will try to prioritise necessary things. I think in such case, a segment has fallen here,” he added.

He further said, “At present, internet has become an essential thing everywhere including business. Here, the decline in the mobile internet users is a matter of concern. A key reason for this is inflation.”

The second reason is to stop buying small packages. Those who can afford to buy small packages cannot afford to buy big packages. BTRC should do more rationally analysis in these areas. They should give something to the mass people to use, said Nurul Kabir.

This correspondent talked to people of different professions, including rickshaw and van pullers, day labourers, and vegetable sellers in various places of Dhaka, including Karwan Bazar market. Many of them said that they usually use internet for video calling to talk with family members, watch sports and entertainment.

They also said that now they don't get small packages anymore. And because of the high price of the big package, they lose interest in buying it.

Taimur Rahman, Chief Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Officer, Banglalink, told The Business Post that they have seen that the overall number of data subscribers in the industry has declined since September last year.

This has probably happened due to recent changes in data regulations and the subsequent discontinuation of smaller internet packages, mainly the 3-day validity packs, which was very attractive for many customers, he said.

Moreover, there has also been an overall economic crisis due to global issues that has pushed up inflation hitting the people’s pockets, he added.

However, Banglalink has gained internet subscribers during the period till December, which has been due to their improved 4G network, new coverage areas and enhanced capacity. “We have also recently doubled our network capacity by 50 per cent and invested money in spectrum to enhance our services,” he said.

Robi Axiata Limited’s Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer Shahed Alam told The Business Post that they believe that there are several reasons behind the decrease in the number of internet users in the country in the last few months.

Factors like decrease in the number of internet packages, economic instability, effect of the winter season, political situation have negatively affected the internet usage trend. “However, we have to observe the situation for a certain period whether this trend will continue or not,” he added.