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Operators must reduce internet service cost

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17th-May-2017       
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THE New Nation reported on Tuesday that the country's mobile phone operators are making exorbitant profits by selling internet gigabyte (GB) data to customers at many times higher rates exploiting users without valid reasons. As per Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the total number of active internet subscribers is now over 67.25 million at the end of February. The vast majority of the internet users are taking service from mobile phone operators in exchange of excessive internet service fee. In our view the BTRC must take corrective measures to bring down the rates to a reasonable level. They are exploiting users too much and it must stop.
It appears that data service has become major revenue-earner for mobile companies following the launch of high-speed 3G networks in the second half of 2013. Though the bulk price of internet data decreased drastically over the time, the mobile operators are still selling data at high price, meaning customers have drastically remained deprived of low price facility. Consumers are demanding that the price must be downward adjusted and it is important to make Bangladesh digital spreading the use of internet at all levels.
BTRC disclosure says the cellular operators are spending an average of Tk 0.26 to purchase every gigabyte internet data but selling it at more than Tk 200. Although bandwidth price was reduced in different times, the operators kept their selling rate almost unchanged. It appears that operators are making misleading claims saying the bandwidth cost taken from customers is not more than 1-3 percent of the total cost of their data-based services. But when they sell 1 GB data at Tk 209 to Tk 277 valid for 28 days their claim appears not based on facts. State-owned mobile operators Teletalk is also selling at Tk 180 with 30 days validation that should not be any way.  
In 2016, the data service accounted for 12.5 percent of the revenues for Grameenphone, Robi and Banglalink; which altogether have a market share of about 97 percent. In 2015, data service fetched 8.32 percent of the three operators' revenues, up from 5 percent in 2014 and 2 percent in 2013. It shows when they are spending lesser to buy data service, they are increasing their revenue manifold by charging higher rates.  
In our view it is high time BTRC must intervene. Cheaper internet service must be accessible to users which will also invariably increase the number of customers manifolds. Internet is an essential service to business expansion and it must be cheaper. The government is planning to introduce 4G networks; which will add more speed to internet service. We believe more users will add to more revenue of the operators instead of charging higher rates to lower number of customers. So they should not have reason to continue higher rates.  

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