From a luxury to a necessity, from isolated use cases to versatile applications, and from city centres to remote households, the internet has permeated across the lengths and widths of Bangladesh in the last decade in an ever so unimaginable way.
Unfortunately, internet accessibility in Bangladesh is often defined in terms of internet penetration only, which allows little to no insights for decision makers.
A comprehensive understanding of the internet landscape in the 21st century should address the following aspects: users' access to internet, average data consumption per user, payment for internet access, usage of devices, time consumption of internet use, commonly used social media platforms, search contents, emerging start-ups fuelled by internet's growth and domain of internet marketplace.
The agenda is, therefore, to explain the following aspects.
Internet consumption & price
As of June 2020, Bangladesh has an internet user base of 103M, 95M of which are mobile internet users, while the rest are connected via Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
Both Mobile internet and ISP user bases have encountered immense growth, growing at a 5 year Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15.14% and 46.55% respectively.
Growth has not been limited to internet user base only. Internet consumption has followed the user base growth in tandem, whereby, the country's bandwidth consumption has increased 100 folds in the last decade to an average of 1558 Gigabyte (GB) of bandwidth consumed every second.
The growth in consumption had been spurred by falling prices. During the last 5 years, an inverse relationship between data consumption and data prices is observed. Assessment of the telecom sector reveals that average price per megabyte (MB) has decreased significantly from BDT 0.15 in Q1'2016 to an average price of BDT 0.03 per MB at the end of Q2'2020.
Telecom sector & mobile internet
In terms of Mobile Data Subscriber, as of Q2'2020, Grameen Phone (GP) leads the market with 42.16% market share, followed by Robi and Banglalink with market shares of 33.15% and 24.68% respectively.
At the end of Q2'2020, the Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) from Data Customers stands at BDT 71, BDT 66.49, and BDT 39.48 for GP, Robi and Banglalink respectively.
Furthermore, as of Q2'2020, on average, a Robi user consumed 2939 MB of data every month compared to 2583 MB and 2240 MB consumption of GP and Banglalink users.
Interestingly, Data ARPU and AMBPU's growth have been unperturbed by the effects of the coronavirus. However, during the last 5 years, while overall Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) had fallen, Data ARPU increased. This indicates a major consumer behaviour shift taking place in the telecom industry.
Device & operating system market share
The transition from 2G to 3G and beyond would not have been possible had it not been for the device compatibility. Over the last decade, not only has device penetration increased but also smart devices have become more widely accepted.
51.32% of device market share in Bangladesh is attributed to Mobile Phones, while smartphone penetration is around 34%. FY 2019-2020, 14.98M Units of mobile phones were manufactured in Bangladesh, while around 29.6M devices were shipped to Bangladesh during 2019.
As more and more manufacturers express interest to produce phones made or assembled in Bangladesh, internet and device accessibility is expected to reach newer heights.
There is a neck and neck battle between brands like Samsung, Walton, and Xiaomi in the local market.
With newer mobile vendors, newer Operating Systems (OS) have emerged with the objective to provide a more streamlined digital experience. However, the Android OS has dominated the OS market with a 95.37% market share as of September 2020.
Social media usage & demographics
A large part of the internet world's experience involves the use of social media platforms. On average a Bangladeshi internet user spends more than 18 minutes on Facebook, and more than 16 minutes on Youtube. In fact, these two sites are ranked 3rd and 2nd respectively in terms of most commonly used sites in Bangladesh.
However, Facebook has dominated the social media landscape of Bangladesh with a 93.35% market share and a user base of 35M. While many other social media platforms have gained some popularity, they have failed to match the dominance of Facebook.
Men and Female under the ages 35 account for 53% of Facebook's Bangladesh user base, with a male to female ratio of 1.18.
Furthermore, as of September 2020, Dhaka has the highest number of users, followed by Chittagong and Khulna. In all these regions more than 93% people have used Facebook using an android device.
In terms of reported education level, 73% users are college (equivalent) students, while the most commonly reported position for jobs is managerial.
Search trends & interest
Search engines queries are yet another common activity in the online ecosystem. As businesses ramp up their internet ad spend to maintain brand visibility on search engines, search trend analysis is more important now than ever before.
During 2020, on-call delivery is the most commonly searched category accounting for 24.75% among the other major categories. Other major categories include: e-Commerce (18.96%), groceries (17.85%), mobile financial services (15.76%), social media (13.36%) and telemedicine (9.32%).
In the on-call delivery category, Pathao was the most searched brand. However their searches plunged after the last week of March.
On the other hand, Daraz, followed by Bikroy.com, was the most searched e-Commerce brand. Tonic, Doctorola and Praava were the most searched Telemedicne companies.
The success of the internet based startups in Bangladesh is not limited to brands like bKash, Pathao and Daraz only. Startups like Augmedix have raised $19M in investment from local and foreign investors.
Some other commonly funded start-ups in the internet ecosystem include: Shohoz ($15M), Chaldal ($14.80M), Sindabaad.com ($8.30M), Surecash ($7M), and many more.
During the last 5 years, many software and outsourcing companies have also emerged. Business process outsourcing has generated around $300M in revenue in 2018, providing employment, directly, to 45000 people.
At the same time, software exports FY 2017 stood at $900M. Freelancing sector is also booming. Currently, 600,000 youth are working as freelancers online.
All these have been made possible by the increasing internet accessibility.
Beyond internet penetration
According to IWS, internet penetration in Bangladesh is 60.7%; a number that does little justice to our journey of advancement, inclusivity, and prospects in the last decade. With increasing device and internet accessibility, acceptability and affordability, infrastructure development, newer software/tech parks, and a booming youth population, the possibilities for Bangladesh are endless, and therefore, when we look at the internet landscape of Bangladesh, we must look beyond internet penetration to have a broader perspective.
Abrar Ahmed is an Intern at Magpie Analytics.