The world is changing right before our eyes
Bangladesh entered the 4G era with much fanfare back in February this year. As expected, the subscribers thronged our retail outlets and walk-in-centres in large numbers to get equipped with the 4G SIMs to enjoy the bounties of 4G service.
The device makers quickly joined the mobile operators in the struggle to create the eco-system for 4G services by aggressively pushing 4G devices in the market.
Having received the license on February 19, Robi launched its 4.5G service on the following day in all the 64 districts of the country. This was the largest and quickest ever roll-out of a new technology in the history of the country. The intent was loud and clear: Robi is determined to dominate the digital space of the future.
Our unyielding commitment to digitalization was evident in the way we carried on taking our 4.5G service to all corners of the country. Till date, Robi has on-aired more than 6,500 4.5G BTSs, covering more than 500 thanas of the country, serving three million unique 4.5G subscribers. Investing Tk3,000 crore on rolling out 4.5G network, we have created the largest 4.5G network of the country.
Therefore, being the undisputed champion of the 4.5G service in Bangladesh, Robi quickly answered the call of the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications, and Information Technology and joined Huawei to organize the first ever 5G summit of the country.
When the 5G trial station confirmed that the 5G test has yielded 4.1Gbps speed on July 25, the jaws of the people present at the summit hall, literally dropped. This speed is quicker than our wildest of imaginations, but it was right in front of our eyes.
Yes, we don’t yet have a device available in the market which can enable us to enjoy this technology, and yes, the world is yet to come to a consensus on how to go about standardizing the technology for mass usage, but, all these roadblocks will be overcome sooner than we think. You might be wondering, what gives me so much confidence?
The answer is simple, the world as we know it is changing right before our eyes.
Digital disruption is in the process of re-designing the way the industry works across the sectors. What started with a cool smartphone is soon set to evolve into connecting all your cars, homes, factories, hospitals, schools, and all the other public utility services.
According to industry experts, there would be 100 billion connected devices in the world soon thanking the 5G technology. What it means is that we are soon going to be surrounded by Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and such other technologies.
We are soon going to be surrounded by Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, and such other technologies
Each of these technological marvels will have consumer level as well as industry level applications, facilitating the creation of a truly connected society. Such a connected society will be designed to harness human ingenuity and channel it towards innovating ever new ways of solving real-life problems to fast-track progress towards sustainable development.
Bangladesh, being the first country of the world to articulate its digital aspiration in the Digital Bangladesh vision, can’t afford to lag behind in this race towards technological nirvana -- that is 5G.
We took 16 years for switching to 3G service from 2G, then another five years to enter the 4G era. Now 5G must come earlier; our proud nation deserves it, and Robi is committed to lead the way in the ensuing journey.
I strongly believe that the Bangladesh 5G Summit has created the backdrop to start the dialogue for creating the policy framework for the introduction of 5G. One aspect is clear -- 5G will require heavy investment.
Unfortunately, given the current profitability scenario of the industry, where one operator makes profits and the others struggle to do so, it would become difficult to convince the share-holders to commit to the investment required. We must rid ourselves from the archaic regulation that stifles progress. Barring the mobile operators from investing in laying fibre optic network, does not help in any ways.
Thankfully, steps are under way to unify the on-net/off-net price differentiations; we strongly believe this will go a long way to address the imbalanced market competition that plagues the industry. We would also need to look closely into adopting a robust anti-competitive regulatory framework to bring back vitality in the industry.
I would also urge the government to release more spectrum to us at a reasonable price. Blaming the industry for quality of service, while a massive chunk of spectrum remains unused, is not fair. We also need to remove all other roadblocks that slow us down.
The country’s digital landscape is changing fast. Robi as the leading digital service provider has already proved its worth in the domain of digital education with Robi 10 Minute School, in sports entertainment with My Sports, in mHealth solutions with My Health, in mobile app development with the largest mobile application platform of the country, BDApps, in entertainment content in partnership with iFlix -- the list continues to get longer by the day, but, the common thread in this unfolding story is that Robi is leading the charge for a Digital Bangladesh.
So, when you are sure about the digital future of the country, you wonder, 5G? Well, why not?
Mahtab Uddin Ahmed is the MD and CEO of Robi Axiata Limited.