• Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
  • Last Update : 10:39 am

BTCL introducing low-cost internet in survival bid

  • Published at 01:36 am September 8th, 2018
The state-run  telecom company has only 18,699 active internet subscribers <strong>Bigstock</strong>
The state-run telecom company has only 18,699 active internet subscribers Bigstock

According to sources at BTCL, the company’s number of subscribers has reduced from over a million in 2009 to around 600,000 in 2018—with former subscribers either discontinuing their connections or abandoning them after moving.

In a bid to avoid extinction, government-owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) is planning to introduce low-cost internet for the masses. 

According to sources at BTCL, the company’s number of subscribers has reduced from over a million in 2009 to around 600,000 in 2018—with former subscribers either discontinuing their connections or abandoning them after moving. 

Additionally, the company has  few new subscribers. Its internet client base is very low, with only 17,779 Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) and 950 Gigabyte Passive Optical Network (GPON) subscribers—totalling 18,699  active subscribers.

Although no measures have thus far been taken to counter the company’s decline, Post, Telecommunication, and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar told the Bangla Tribune: “In about 10 years’ time, no one will make voice calls anymore. We have to adapt in order to keep up with the times. I have advised BTCL to focus on improving data connectivity, as that is the thing of the future.

“Considering the backbone and internet exchanges the company has, if these are data-enabled, BTCL will be able to provide better internet than any mobile phone network as it does not have the same limitations. 

The minister also said: “The main problem here is that BTCL’s technology is backdated. However, BTCL’s newly-implemented Modernization of Telecommunication Network (MOTN) project will increase the strength of the data. BTCL should also provide Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) services and focus on bandwidth distribution. This is their only chance to come out of their slump.”

Mentioning that the number of voice calls in the country has gone down by 25% since the introduction of 4G internet, he said: “BTCL must shift their focus away from voice calls and onto internet.”

Sector affiliates have said BTCL is capable of handling almost 1.3 million landline subscribers, but around 700,000 of those are currently unused. This is largely due to problems such as cable disruptions, lines occasionally breaking, and the ineptitude of linesmen. 

Moreover, the widespread availability of mobile phones, their mobility, and use of modern technological facilities make them a clear favourite. 

The difficulties faced by people trying to acquire a BTCL internet connection dissaudes people from  obtaining the connection–especially with the advent of mobile internet.

According to the BTCL website, a new telephone connection costs Tk2,000 in Dhaka, Tk1,000 in Chittagong, and Tk600 in other cities, districts, and upazilas. In Dhaka and Chittagong, there is a monthly line rent of Tk160, while for other cities it is Tk120. Upazila users pay line rents of Tk80. 

This is in sharp contrast to the days when a line cost Tk18,000, took months – or even years – of waiting to install, and one had to endure the whimsical attitudes of the linesmen. Nowadays, there are no such problems – new lines are cheap and connected rapidly, and linesmen are no longer temperamental – but people are still unwilling to procure these connections.

Now, BTCL charges Tk0.1/minute from 8pm-8am and Tk0.3/minute from 8am-8pm for landline to landline calls, and Tk0.8/minute for landline to mobile phone calls.Since the formation of the company, the company earned Tk1,719 crore and lost Tk1,622 crore in the fiscal year 2008-09. However, this ended up being the only successful year for the company, as it spent Tk1,342 crore and made Tk1,241 crore in 2009-10. 

The following year, it made Tk1,640 crore but used up a whopping Tk1,976 crore.

The company followed this up with an income of Tk2,203 crore and expenditure of Tk2,186 crore in 2011-2012.

In 2012-13, the company incurred losses of Tk544 crore.

Over the next four fiscal years, it had incomes of Tk844 crore, Tk505 crore, Tk1,141 crore, and Tk1,136 crore.