Covid-19 pandemic and increased supplementary duties have hit the telecom industry hard as around 40 lakh active subscribers have left the mobile networks in the last three months – from April to June this year.
During the same period, the total number of mobile Internet users slumped by 3 lakh, although there was a 5-lakh increase in the number of broadband internet connections.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of mobile phone subscribers in the country reached 16.12 crore at the end of June this year, down from 16.53 crore three months earlier.
Mobile and internet users who have any voice call and access to the internet at least once in the preceding 90 days are counted by the BTRC as active subscribers.
At the end of June, the country's largest mobile network operator Grameenphone's active connections stood at 7.45 crore which was 8 lakh higher at the end of March.
Robi and Banglalink saw an even greater slump in numbers of subscribers during the March-June period.
The second largest mobile operator Robi's customer base shrank by 17 lakh in three months to stand at 4.97 crore at the end of June. Meanwhile, Banglalink lost 14 lakh subscribers in the same period, and the number of subscribers of this company stood at 3.40 crore at the end of June.
Ankit Sureka, head of Corporate Communications & Sustainability at Banglalink, said nationwide general holidays are the major reason behind this slump in subscriptions.
He said, "Such measures have definitely impacted the lives and livelihoods of many people. Moreover, the financial setback caused by recent natural calamities is forcing them to cut their overall expenditure. We consider it to be the main reason behind the decline in our customer base."
"The increase in supplementary duties on voice calls and mobile internet in this year's national budget has hiked their spending on such services as well. This can be another reason why our customer base has shrunk to some extent in recent times," he added.
Like all the other sectors, Covid-19 has dealt a tremendous blow to the telecom sector. Besides adversely impacting our revenue, people are having to cut down on mobile usage or having to completely stop using mobile phones in many cases. On top of that, raising of supplementary duty from 10 percent to 15 percent on all mobile services in the current budget has been a double blow for new subscriber acquisition for the MNO's, said Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer at Robi Axiata Ltd.
Increase in number of broadband internet users
In contrast, the number of broadband internet users reached 86 lakh at the end of June, up from 81 lakh three months before.
As a result, the total number of Internet subscribers increased to 10.34 crore at the end of June this year from 10.32 crore at the end of March.