Progress towards digitalisation in Bangladesh

20 05 2012

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Sunday that the country made a good progress in its efforts towards building ‘Digital Bangladesh’ in the last three years as pledged in the ruling party’s election manifesto.

“We’ve achieved many successes to this end,” she said while inaugurating the multimedia classrooms and digital academic contents developed by teachers.

Full story: The Daily Star

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Internet Companies in Bangladesh – Sylhet

1 03 2011

Mobile:

Grameenphone Sylhet -Better than most telecom and ISP for village areas, in terms of getting a signal for data however their charges are very high. Hope to see 4G available in every village by 2017.

BanglaLink Sylhet– Price is more competitive than GP however only mainly used in the city.

 

Home broadband:

Link3 Sylhet – Coverage area in Cities only

 

Smile Sylhet – Coverage area in Cities only

 

Mobile broadband:

Banglalion Sylhet – Coverage area in Cities only

Qubee Sylhet – Coverage area in Cities only





Connect the dots in digitalisation

20 07 2009

With today’s course of internet, the goal of connecting rural Bangladesh will take decades to reach. But WiMAX company Augere believes it can accelerate the process and get rural connection now and play an important role in realising a “Digital Bangladesh”.

Sanjiv Ahuja, chairman and CEO of Augere, speaks to The Daily Star in an exclusive interview during a visit to Dhaka recently.

Augere is one of the two companies who bid and won the WiMAX license in Bangladesh and is preparing to initiate and inaugurate business in the next few days.

Sanjiv came to Dhaka to see progress made in installation, as the company imported network equipment, moved into a new office facility and also added Jerry Mobbs as CEO of Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Limited.

“Our commitment is to ensure never before experienced internet facilities in the country,” said Sanjiv.

“That goes from understanding the proposition to ordering, installing and bill payment of the service, customer support, if and when they have any issues, and adding new services over time. That is the core fabric of our business.”

Augere believes in getting there gradually. Over the last few weeks, they have studied the technicalities of the product and services. They want to start with a few customers and then add on before their commercial launch.

“We need to work with our potential customers, so that when they install the product, they will have a good installation experience,” he added.

Augere plans to start adding customers over the next few weeks and in the meantime, continue to augment their network and make it bigger and richer by covering larger parts of Dhaka to begin with, followed by other cities.

At present, Augere can support a few thousand customers and have coverage in areas such as Baridhara, Basundhara, Banani and Gulshan.

In regards to the high license fee borne by the company, Sanjiv said, “The license fee was determined by an auction, as you know. There were a couple of people who were a lot more aggressive then we were in the process. But to be competitive, we had to step up to it. Do I wish we paid less money? Absolutely, I wish we paid less money. Do we think what we paid was appropriate for the market? Absolutely, if we didn’t think so, we wouldn’t have paid.”

He also said increased internet usage globally has led to the growth of the economy. It is critical to increase commercial activities, for education, healthcare and good governance and important for the banking sector. Put it all together, it is critical to the future economic success of Bangladesh.

“Connecting rural parts of Bangladesh is our responsibility and commitment. And the existing demand is what excites us about Bangladesh,” Sanjiv added.

“I find Bangladesh conducive for business and we are welcomed as an investor here. We have made tremendous investment in the country and will continue to invest here over the next couple of years,” he said.

“In Bangladesh, we see that half of the households have television, while an average refurbished or locally assembled PC is near the price of a television. Average households that have mobile phones today end up with two to two and a half telephones per household. What we are committed to provide is a service, which does not cost them a lot more then their average mobile phone bill. And if they can do it with a PC, at the price of a television, I think the demand is more than what anyone has anticipated,” Sanjiv said, explaining how rural communities would be benefited by technologies such as WiMAX.

He admitted that cost is a barrier today, but it’s beginning to fade. Augere wants to work as a catalyst and get community centres, schools, hospitals, government facilities and banks in the rural areas, as the starting point by getting PCs into every household and getting them on to the internet.

“It is our belief that we can do it. It has been my commitment ever since I founded this business a year and a half ago and the foundation of this business is based on this belief. And the team today is proving that it can be done,” he said.

“I see no reason why the children of farm workers would not be a part of the global community of internet. We can enable it technically and from customer experience. We can provide infrastructure and we are committed to keeping the cost as low as possible to enable them to do so.”

Terming BTRC’s projection to get 10 million people connected as realistic, the Augere CEO said the long-term vision should be to connect 50 percent of the country’s population.

“We will initially start with larger cities but rapidly, sometime next year, we want to move into the rural areas. What we want to do is learn by going to rural areas, because I know we will not get it right the first time. What is being done in Dhaka will not work in the northern part of Bangladesh,” said Sanjiv.

He believes the initial learning is going to come from urban areas. They will be able to tailor their propositions through the learning process. Even in many developed countries broadband is still not available in rural areas.

Looking at the market in the next five years, he said, “I think we will have 2 or 3 major competitors in this market and we will all be competing vigorously. I am sure you will see the first steps towards a ‘Digital Bangladesh’ and its impact on the overall economy will be tremendous.”

“When students experience the real internet, graduate and get into the work force, their productivity will be a lot higher. The impact will also be seen in healthcare, the banking sector and e-governance, leading to more transparency.”

It will help create the call centre industry, IT outsourcing, knowledge process outsourcing and direct and indirect employment generation.

“The most rewarding thing would be to see people from the poorest regions experiencing what everybody in the most developing nations experience,” Sanjiv said.

“We don’t want a customer to buy our service until they are satisfied with it. We want our customers to be ambassadors of our services to the people they come across. It is the same for developed markets.”

Speaking on the existing telecoms policies, Sanjiv thinks there were enough licenses issued to have a competitive market in Bangladesh and it would be exciting to have healthy competition in the market, as competition raises standards.

“I think there are parts in the policy that does not lead to enough competition but that is changing and the commitment that the government has made to increase competition at all levels, part of it is international connectivity and I think it will help reduce the tariffs for everybody,” he said.

He believes that BTRC and the administrative part of the government have made very strong commitment towards digitalising Bangladesh and they are putting it into practice.

“I think 3G is a wonderful technology and if customers use it as an alternative, then it is good to have competing propositions in the market. Are consumers ready to absorb 3G, because it is more expensive then the mobile proposition that is using 2G or the 2 ½ G technologies that exists here? I would question that economically,” he said, talking on 3G licenses.

“As I said, it is not about technology, it is about customer experience and affordability. If the mobile operators believe they can afford to build 3G networks and provide services at competitive prices with great customer experience, I welcome the competition.”

According to Sanjiv, there are macro level issues — can they provide enough coverage and is the mobile industry healthy enough to support 3G licenses?

“There are very few profitable mobile operators in this country. For them to invest in the licenses and infrastructure for 3G, on top of current investments, if I were the regulator, I would be cautious in rolling it out. You don’t want to burden the industry with increasing expenses. Competition is good, but too much competition leads to lack of profitability and eventually causes consolidation,” he added.

So it has to be ensured that the mobile industry is healthy by itself. Just rolling out 3G technology and putting pressure on the mobile industry may lead to immediate benefits for the exchequer of the country but could cause long term issues for the sector.

On existing ISPs, he said they would have an alternative and welcome them to use their technology. “Today they are using adhoc or reselling DSL. We are keen to have ISPs as partners in this business. I think it will encourage growth of the industry. We want ISPs to flourish and I think we are great news for them.”

“We wouldn’t know the prices for a while now. When we say we want to get deep into the pyramid and get everyone connected, we have to be competitively priced. Overall customer experience depends on bandwidth, reliability, installation experience and quality of service, because that is where cost of the business goes and that’s where the value to a consumer comes from,” Sanjiv said. source