'The telecom service was placed among the emergency services'
While the technology played its part in keeping Bangladesh moving amid the pandemic, the mobile companies had a vital role to play in facilitating the transition of everyday activities remotel
Starting from work to commerce, everything was done over the phone amid the two-and-a-half-month-long countrywide shutdown announced on March 26 to slow the spread of coronavirus.
For those who had no fixed internet connection, mobile internet was a Godsend for them.
“The telecom service was placed among the emergency services,” said Khairul Basher, head of communications at Grameenphone, adding that the work/study from home practice drastically increased the demand for data services.
Subsequently, all three mobile operators saw profit or revenue growth from a year earlier.
As per latest data, which is of September, market leader Grameenphone logged in profit of Tk 2,690 crore, up 6.3 per cent year-on-year. Its closest competitor Robi posted profit of Tk 116.1 crore, up 1.9 per cent year-on-year.
Banglalink’s parent company, the Amsterdam-based VEON, does not disclose the profit figures in its financial report; only the revenue earned is shared. The country's number carrier logged in revenue of Tk 3,421 crore between January and September, in contrast to Tk 3,419 crore a year earlier.
The mobile operators have had a seminal role to play: not only did they raise awareness about prevention of COVID-19 they also teamed up with the government to draw a digital map to track coronavirus cases and find out areas susceptible to contamination.
“The industry as a whole has been instrumental in tackling the ongoing crisis through various digital services.”
Additionally, the industry as a whole has taken a leap forward in ensuring nationwide network coverage by partnering with tower management companies.
“We have deployed all our resources to prevail over this predicament,” Basher added.
While there was a huge upsurge in data usage during the pandemic, that did not translate into higher revenue for Robi, the country’s number two player, said Shahed Alam, its chief corporate and regulatory officer.
“We had to reduce the price of data considering the economic hardship endured by a large segment of our customers during the pandemic,” Alam added.
“We are looking forward to bringing more innovative digital services leveraging the insights we got this year, and want to operate under a favourable and predictable regulatory regime that supports our endeavours and benefits our customers,” said Erik Aas, chief executive officer of Banglalink.