With people stuck at home during the pandemic, activities like working, learning, shopping, entertainment – and even court proceedings – have shifted online, quickly becoming the new normal for most.
People are now using the internet a lot more and due to this, internet service providers (ISPs) have seen a significant rise in demand for their services.
Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, internet usage has increased by up to 30 percent, according to industry insiders.
Before the pandemic, total internet usage was around 1,400 gigabits per second (Gbps) in Bangladesh, which now stands at 1,750Gbps, according to International Internet Gateway (IIG) service providers. IIG is a system through which data traffic is received and transmitted internationally.
Businesses and institutions are all subscribing to the internet to continue their activities. Educational institutions – schools, colleges and universities – have been booking online spaces, keeping physical classrooms aside for now.
Inter-ministerial meetings, social discussions and debates, media briefings, and daily work plans of companies are now happening online to ensure social distance.
According to the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB), online sales of essential commodities have increased by approximately 70 percent amid the pandemic. People now go online for daily shopping, and even to order food and groceries.
Samiya Sultana Mili, a private jobholder, never subscribed to a broadband internet connection till March 26, as mobile data was enough for her to manage life outside of office hours.
However, she had to subscribe to a broadband connection from April as she was forced to continue working from home due to the nationwide general holidays declared to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Like Mili, many jobholders who used to depend solely on mobile internet have recently subscribed to fixed internet or broadband connections.
Antaranga Dot Com Ltd, an ISP in Dhaka, provides retail internet packages in Ramna, Segunbagicha and Paltan areas. In the last two months, it has registered 300 new subscribers on its network.
At present, there are around 1,000 ISPs in the country that are providing broadband internet services to end-users.
According to the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), the usage of internet bandwidth has jumped around 30 percent.
However, the number of retail and home users has decreased by around the same percentage.
The ISPAB explained that during the general holidays in April and May, around 50 percent of the corporate subscribers disconnected their internet lines, but the ISPs have started regaining those clients since June after the government relaxed Covid-19 restrictions.
"Bandwidth consumption has increased, but we lost around 30 percent subscribers as 60-70 percent of our users were students," said ISPAB President Md Aminul Hakim.
Most students went back to their homes outside major cities, disconnecting their internet services because colleges and universities are closed, he added.
Khalid Raihan, general manager of Summit Communication Limited (SCL), one of the leading IIGs that provides 35 percent of the country's total bandwidth, said the company reported around 20 percent demand growth in the last three months.
Mobile operators lose users despite growth in data usage
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), mobile operators lost around 11 lakh internet subscribers in two months until May.
At the end of March, the total number of mobile internet users was 95.1 million, which dropped to 94 million at the end of May.
However, Grameenphone, the largest mobile phone operator in the country, has seen a growth of 5 lakh new mobile internet subscribers in the last three months. After the first quarter of this year, its total data users were 44 million. But after the second quarter, now its total data users stand at 49 million.
A senior official of Banglalink told The Business Standard that it has also recorded around 20 percent increase in data usage since the coronavirus outbreak.
Internet service providers said most users, alongside using online entertainment platforms like YouTube, Facebook and instant messaging apps, are spending a lot of time in digital classrooms.