The GSMA and Bangladesh based AMTOB (Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh) has urged the Bangladesh Government to revise the country’s decade old telecom policy in order to accommodate the technological development in order to spur further growth of the sector.
The call was made at a workshop organized by the GSMA, in cooperation with the AMTOB on “Realizing the potential of mobile in Bangladesh”.
Irene Ng, Asia Regional Head of GSMA commented that, “The mobile industry has already contributed a great deal towards the development of economic and social development in Bangladesh. But, more needs to happen to enable the full potential of mobile to be realized and for digital inclusion to take place in Bangladesh. For a start, reforming the legislative and policy framework in Bangladesh is a key component of what needs to happen. In particular, we look forward to the 1998 National Telecoms Policy to be updated to keep up with changing technology and for mobile enabled solutions in the areas of health, education and financial inclusion to be provided to all so that the vision of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ can be truly met”.
Minister for Posts, Telecommunications & Information Technology, Abdul Latif Siddique, MP said that the mobile telecommunication sector has emerged as an inevitable sector without which no development and progress could take place.
The minister made the comment while addressing the AMTOB/GSMA workshop as the chief guest: He assured the industry that the government would do everything possible considering the contributions of the sector.
T I M Nurul Kabir, Secretary General of AMTOB said “Mobile Network Operators and international organizations support an effective public private dialogue through formation of a committee with government representatives to engage in a review of the current legislative, policy and regulatory framework governing the operations of mobile network operators and to make recommendations around specific reforms to the framework that may be necessary in order to support the realisation of the Government of Bangladesh’s Vision 2021 plan’ and the associated ‘Perspective Plan 2010-2021’ and any further objective that may be set within the forthcoming ‘Vision 2041’.”
Bangladesh is, in many ways, a country ahead of its time in terms of mobile access. Despite being ranked as a low income country, over 50% of the population subscribes to mobile services and has outpaced all its peers in terms of network coverage. The combination of limited disposable income and more mature mobile usage means the customers of Bangladesh are more discerning. Mobile network operators are looking to innovative Value Added Services (VAS) to remain competitive and respond to the slowing growth in core mobile services. Services that add value to and improve on the livelihoods of the consumer are more likely to support these goals.
The use of mobile in driving socio-economic improvement is on the rise. From its pioneering roots in microfinance 30 years ago, the country now has a relatively solid mobile consumer base, much of which are underserved in core life needs. Mobile operators are demonstrating the potential for social VAS, and while we expect this to continue to grow, it will take time.
There is still an opportunity for public and private investment in providing seed capital for the innovation that is not yet ‘market-led’, with a key role for government in facilitating this process.
While it is true that the majority of unconnected individuals reside in rural areas, this is due to the fact that the majority of population are in rural areas.
Bangladesh has a myriad of social challenges, including low literacy rates, child malnutrition, and poor access to electricity and a significant urban-rural divide. However, mobile penetration is higher than would be expected given its low-income status. Subscriber penetration reached 40% at the beginning of 2014 and it is expected to grow to 50% by 2020.
Md. Faizur Rahman Chowdhury, Secretary, Posts & Telecom Division of Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications & Information Technology and Sunil Kanti Bose, Chairman of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) also spoke on the occasion as the special guests. Earlier, Irene Ng, Head of Asia of GSMA and Ziad Shatara, Chairman of AMTOB and CEO of Banglalink Digital Communications Ltd made welcome remarks.