The telecom operators in Bangladesh added 9.6 lakh new mobile users to their networks in October compared to the previous month, but during the same period, the number of mobile Internet users have dropped by 3.72 lakh.
The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) in a report on Thursday revealed that the number of mobile phone subscribers across the country reached 16.80 crore in October, from 16.71 crore in September.
During the same period, the number of mobile Internet users dropped to 11.07 crore in October, from 11.11 crore in the previous month.
The BTRC defines subscribers as biometric verified users who show any activity – such as voice, data, SMS – at least once in the preceding 90 days.
Market leader Grameenphone is in the top position with 5.29 lakh new subscribers. At the end of October, the operator's customer base reached 7.81 crore, compared to 7.75 crore in September.
Following in the second position, Robi Axiata Ltd added 2 lakh new subscribers in that period. At the end of October, the operator's total subscriber base reached 5.04 crore, from 5.01 crore in the last month.
Responding to a query, Chief Corporate and Regulatory Officer at Robi Axiata Ltd Shahed Alam said, "Coupled with the network infrastructure development, we have been pursuing innovation in every aspect of our business.
"We won the prestigious CommunicAsia 2020 Award for introducing innovative services to tackle the pandemic. This achievement gives testimony to our proven prowess in innovation."
He continued, "Perhaps the most telling sign of Robi's growing appeal can be found in the fact that 70% of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) users joined Robi network this year from other operators. So the background to the surge in subscriber base is very compelling."
Banglalink – the third largest telecom operator in Bangladesh – also registered 1 lakh new users in October, pushing the total number of its subscribers to 3.49 crore.
Taimur Rahman, chief corporate & regulatory affairs officer at the Banglalink, said, "Banglalink has been investing heavily in its 4G network to provide quality digital services to customers from all over the country.
"The number of our data customers may grow or decrease to some extent in a particular month due to the ongoing pandemic, but our overall recent performance in the data segment has been satisfactory."
He further said, "In Q3 2020, we registered a 20.2% YoY data revenue growth. Banglalink was also recognised as the fastest mobile network by Ookla a few months back. Moreover, Banglalink has the highest amount of spectrum per customer among all the private operators in the country."
Meanwhile, the lone state-owned operator Teletalk Ltd registered only 6,000 subscribers in October, when compared to September this year.
Mobile Internet customer base drops
Despite a sharp growth in broadband Internet consumption amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, mobile operators have experienced a negative trend in the number of mobile Internet users.
From September to October this year, mobile operators collectively lost more than 3.72 lakh Internet users. When approached, none of the telecom operators commented about the possible reasons behind losing some of their Internet customer base.
Meanwhile, broadband Internet use compared to the pre-pandemic time has increased dramatically. Total volume of broadband use has reached about 1,850Gbps (gigabits per second) compared to 1,500Gbps in the pre-pandemic period.
But the number of fixed Internet connections has not increased in October, said sources from the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB). From September to October, the number of fixed broadband connections (ISP and PSTN) remained at 86 lakh.
Commenting on the matter, ISPAB's Secretary General Emdadul Hoque said, "The Dhaka city corporations' drive to shift the overhead cables underground are the main reason behind the lack of any growth in the number of fixed line connections.
"Besides, many businesses including buying houses, hotels, travel agencies, and airlines ticket booking facilities are still closed, which are the big users of the broadband Internet."
Bangladesh had 11.07 crore Internet subscribers, including mobile and broadband users, at the end of October this year, sources from the BTRC said.