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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Gary: A networked society under way

Update : 11 Dec 2013, 06:50 PM

With the recent deployment of 3G network services in Bangladesh, despite being a few years behind, telecom operators here are now attempting to catch up with the rest of the world in the race of attaining high-speed mobile broadband. As these telecom service providers roll-out the fastest network available in the domestic market, its implications on the lives of people and society remain incomprehensible for many.

In a recent interview, Gary Alan Dewing, Managing Director of Ericsson Bangladesh Limited, shared with the Dhaka Tribune his insights into the country’s telecom industry and its recent developments.

“Currently there is only 50% penetration in the market for mobile users with approximately 110 million voice subscribers of which just 8-10 million are data subscribers using edge technology. In the future connections will be available to everything and any device that can be connected will be connected. Being a leader in innovation and technology, Ericsson wants to help Bangladesh grow into a networked society,” said the managing director of the global supplier of network infrastructure and services.

Talking about his experience working in Bangladesh, Gary said, “Bangladesh is full of challenges but with a well networked society these can be easily overcome. We are not too far from building intelligent technologies to solve society’s problems such as traffic congestion, illiteracy, poverty and poor healthcare services; I believe, with 3G now in the market, this will happen even quicker.”

Discussing the benefits of 3G technology, Gary pointed out that the high-speed Internet facilities will help education and healthcare services flourish, especially in rural areas, as well as encourage entrepreneurship centring technology. He referred to studies that show favourable impact on economic growth of mobile broadband especially in developing nations.

Using the farming community as an example, Gary said businesses in remote areas with lack of connectivity can gain better access to market information about prices and demand for their commodities if 3G services are rolled out as expected.

“Doctors can reach patients in remote areas through video and voice conferencing on their phones through faster data transmission. Also, the education system can be made more interactive with well-developed content and universities can exchange information amongst themselves,” he said elaborating on the benefits of 3G technology.

Addressing the youth, who will mostly be using 3G technology, Gary said, “The youth should be able to think and utilise this opportunity for their gain. There is a need to create a lot of contents both for business and entertainment purposes. Mobile and web applications dedicated to these contents can be developed to take advantage of the huge opportunity. It is about innovative entrepreneurship.”

Gary likened the state of having a fixed network here before mobile data services were introduced with the situation in South Africa, where he lived and worked for many years, saying, “As mobile technology started to come to Africa over time, it led to the development of the mobile banking sector there.”

“Growth opportunities for the mobile banking sector in Bangladesh are huge.”

“As networks develop, banking facilities need to be made available to the unbanked society in rural parts and through mobile services banks can gain access to those markets,” added Gary, who also serves as a board member for several companies in Sub Saharan Africa.

In Bangladesh, Ericsson works with four major mobile operators that make up 97% of the mobile connections market. “Our main challenge is to keep improving the networks provided to operators so that they can ensure better services for the mobile subscribers,” he said.

“For expanding existing network coverage throughout the country, mostly in the rural parts, so as to make best use of the mobile broadband, huge investment is required. The telecom operators are willing to make substantial investments to procure 3G spectrum. For now, they have an existing business plan to roll-out their services.”

“However, the biggest hindrance now is the political turmoil within the country as this is slowing down the roll-out process,” added Gary.

He also shared his investigations on the affordability of smartphones in Bangladesh to increase data subscribers, “Currently a smartphone with good functionality in Bangladesh costs around $90 which is still out of reach of many users. I expect this price to go down up to $50 by the end of a year within the launch of 3G technology.”

About the rates of data subscription going down, Gary seemed skeptical based on the number of data subscribers in the market but further added, “I hope the data charges will be competitive as has been the call rates. Nevertheless, the determining factor in case of voice and video calling services over data network is quality and consumers will demand it.”

Gary believes in helping people arrive at a certain direction by working alongside them rather than pointing directions from a distance. In the future, Ericsson wants to work together with the government to help the growth of ICT and its vision of creating a “digital Bangladesh” by 2020.

“The government could empower the private enterprise a bit more by pointing a direction to a regulations rather than directly getting involved. Doing so might be tough from the government’s point of view in this sector as technology is moving very fast but there is a need to facilitate more.”  

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