Users of both mobile and broadband internet in Dhaka have been facing slow speed for the last couple of days, which service providers blame on power outages due to scheduled maintenance by electricity distributors and moving the overhead cables underground.
Regular interruptions in the OTT services that facilitate app-based commutations are causing serious inconvenience to internet users at homes, offices and businesses across the city. OTT or "Over the Top" refers to any streaming service that delivers content over the internet.
Irfan S Sayem, resident of the city's Eskaton and who works as a media professional from home, faces long upload times and frequent disconnections.
"Slow internet is preventing me from uploading my work on the web on time. If this continues for long, I will lose my job," he complained.
Telecom operators and internet service providers (ISPs), however, have claimed that there are no technical glitches in their system, and the interruptions and slow speed are due to damaged fibre optic cables and long power outages triggered by the ongoing maintenance work.
Industry insiders also mentioned that some service providers and ISPs might be having some issues, but those are isolated incidents.
On 2 November, the Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) issued a public notice stating that they will engage in annual maintenance from 5 November, and the process will continue till 30 November this year.
The companies also notified that some areas of the capital will remain out of electricity for eight hours on the day the scheduled maintenance work takes place there.
Mobile operators told The Business Standard that most of the base transceiver stations (BTS) or mobile towers do not have the necessary battery backup during the absence of electricity for a longer period.
So, if the power in a specific area goes out for a few hours, it severely impacts the mobile network in that area too.
Besides, the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) and the Cable operators association of Bangladesh (COAB) launched their own initiative and began transferring the overhead cables to underground from 19 November.
They started working from the Dhanmondi area of the city, and plan to finish the operation in the whole Dhaka South City Corporation region by the end of this month.
Responding to a query, Md Emdadul Hoque, secretary-general of the ISPAB, said, "We are not facing any problems in providing internet service.
"There are no technical issues on our side. However, some ISPs could be facing problems due to the ongoing maintenance being carried out by the power distribution companies, and the shifting of overhead cables underground."
Reiterating the same statement, telecom operators also said that they are not facing any issues in providing mobile internet to their customers.
A Grameenphone statement issued on Tuesday read, "There are no apparent issues in the Grameenphone's overall network. However, we have had some site outages throughout different parts of the country due to long power outages resulting from the pre-scheduled initiative by the power authority in the last few weeks.
"This is resulting in site outages even during the daytime."
The country's second-largest mobile operator Robi Axiata Ltd in a statement said, "Users may face slow speed on the internet due to cut fibre optic cables in different parts of the country.
"The Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) operators are working to fix it. We are hopeful about resolving the issue very soon."
Pandemic has become a crash course in the digitisation process as the number of internet users crossed the 11 crore milestone in September this year, according to a Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) report.
Among them, there are currently around 10 crore mobile internet users in the country, the report mentioned. The volume of online shopping and e-wallet activities have also increased dramatically.
The internet has become an essential service in the new normal life amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as more and more people are now depending on it for day-to-day activities such as education, corporate meetings, office work and even shopping.
However, despite the huge digital wave, the quality of internet services in the country has not improved much.
Bangladesh ranked 135th on the Ookla's Speedtest Global Index for mobile Internet speeds and placed 96th on the index for fixed broadband speeds in September this year.
In comparison, neighbouring countries Pakistan, Nepal and India placed 106th, 120th and 135th respectively in mobile data speed.