2012 Bangladesh - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Forecasts

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Last updated: 13 Feb 2013 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 82

Analyst: Peter Evans

Publication Overview

This report provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications and digital media markets in Bangladesh. Subjects covered include:

  • Key Statistics;
  • Market and Industry Overviews and Analyses;
  • Regulatory Environment and Development;
  • Major Telecom Players (fixed and mobile);
  • Infrastructure;
  • Broadcasting (including Digital Media);
  • Mobile Voice and Data Market;
  • Internet, including VoIP and IPTV;
  • Broadband (fixed and mobile);
  • Scenario Forecasts (fixed-line, mobile and broadband subscribers) for 2015 and 2020.

Researcher:- Peter Evans
Current publication date:- February 2013 (18th Edition)


Executive Summary

As Bangladesh’s mobile expansion finally slows, the fixed market recovers from a major setback

Bangladesh remains one of the poorest, most densely populated, least developed countries in the world; yet it has somehow managed to show considerable spirit in the development of its telecom sector. Bangladesh has discovered a way to grow the sector in spite of the odds. This nation of almost 170 million people, with its comparatively low GDP per capita, has been involved in the creation of a very competitive mobile telephone market. Most noticeable has been the willingness of Bangladesh to encourage foreign participation in these endeavours.

Following a number of boom years of expansion, the Bangladesh mobile market started showing signs of growth moderating in 2009. This easing has continued through 2012 and into 2013. There had been a truly stellar year in 2007 with the mobile subscriber base increasing by 70%. Growth eased to around 30% and eased further to less than 20% by 2012, with the country’s mobile subscriptions reaching almost 100 million by end-2012. GrameenPhone continued to lead the field with around 41 million subscribers or 41% of the market.

The strong growth in mobiles has been helped enormously by the deregulation of the country’s telecom sector. The rapid uptake of mobile services was no doubt at the expense of the struggling fixed-line sector, with low levels of teledensity and general shortcomings in fixed network infrastructure. The success of the mobile market, however, has been achieved in a country that continues to struggle with its lowly economic status, its frequent natural disasters such cyclones and floods and the slow implementation of much-needed economic reforms.

This unfortunate state of affairs has been reflected in the fixed-line segment of the local telecom market which remains essentially stagnant with a teledensity of less than 1%, by far the lowest in South Asia. With 95% of homes lacking a telephone and with a substantial waiting list for fixed-line services, the country is still struggling with some of the most underdeveloped telecommunications infrastructure in the world. About 80% of Bangladesh’s fixed telephone services are to be found in its four main cities and most of these had been provided by the state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board.

To make matters worse, as the country struggled to put an effective telephone network in place, the fixed market experienced a major setback in 2010. The regulator shut down five of the country’s fixed-line operators because of their alleged involvement in illegal VoIP traffic. This saw a huge number of fixed subscribers disconnected. In fact, within a two month period the number of fixed services in operation had fallen from 1.7 million to around one million. The market has since been able to recover to some extent but it was nevertheless a major setback for the telecom sector and there were ongoing repercussions.

In the meantime, on a more positive note, the strong mobile market was estimated to have created nearly 250,000 jobs throughout the country. Although the mobile segment was continuing to grow, the challenge for the operators is to maintain viable business models, given that mobile ARPU had fallen rapidly in the period to 2009 as the telcos chased subscribers in the rural areas where 80% of the population lives in 86,000 villages. It appeared that ARPU had stabilised by 2012 but it remained low for the time being. Significant news for the mobile sector in 2012 was that the first 3G licence in the country had been awarded to Teletalk, the state-owned operator launching its 3G offering in September; the 3G licensing process for private operators, however, had become bogged down in red tape, but a planned 3G auction looked likely to take place in early 2013.

The internet has been growing quickly in Bangladesh, although obviously this was happening from a very low base. With an estimated internet user-base of close to 10 million (a 7% user penetration) coming into 2013, the number of people using the internet had more than doubled in just three years. The local internet industry was obviously preparing to move into the next stage of its development. The country must work hard, however, to overcome obstacles associated with the country’s lowly economic status and still developing ICT infrastructure. Broadband internet is in its infancy, but the country has started moving into WiMAX services and has embraced mobile broadband in a big way. This is important because the range of technologies on offer help overcome some of the infrastructure limitations.

Key highlights

  • Bangladesh’s mobile market passed 100 million subscribers in early 2013 as penetration reached 67%.
  • This had been preceded by a five-year period in which the country saw mobile subscriber numbers grew almost 20 times.
  • Of the mobile operators, GrameenPhone was far and away the leader, claiming 41 million subscribers, or 41% of the total mobile subscriber base, by end-2012, despite the best commercial efforts of its five competitors.
  • Airtel Bangladesh and Robi Axiata had both seen rapid growth in their respective mobile subscriber bases during 2012.
  • Coming into 2013, internet user penetration remained relatively low and internet subscription rates were even lower.
  • Although broadband internet remains almost non-existent in Bangladesh, following the granting of a number of WiMAX licences, there were early signs that the market was about to change as the new WiMAX services were rolled out and started to attract customers.
  • At the same time, mobile internet was playing a major role in providing online access to the nation, as mobile operators offered 2.5G-based services for connecting to the internet.
  • The fixed-line market experienced a major setback in the first half of 2010 when the regulator shut down five operators; the action had been taken as part of a major move against illegal VoIP services.
  • The market had effectively recovered from the setback by 2012 and a number of cancelled fixed-line licences had been ‘revalidated’.
  • The first 3G licence in the country was awarded to the state-owned operator, Teletalk, which duly launched its 3G offering in September 2012.
  • The 3G licensing for private operators was expected to see an auction take place in early 2013.

Bangladesh: - key telecom parameters – 2012 - 2013


2012 (e)

2013 (e)

Fixed-line services:



Total No. of subscribers

1.6 million

1.7 million




Total No. of subscribers



Mobile services:



Total No. of subscribers

99 million

112 million

(Source: BuddeComm)

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