There is no end to the customer’s sufferings and regrets regarding the price of mobile internet. The government, administration, authorities and even the concerned minister’s expression of anger can be seen by the operators. Consumers are fed up with the cut-throat business practices of telecommunication companies in Bangladesh. Recently, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) directed the mobile internet service providers to reduce the number of packages by making the validity of the data pack a minimum of seven days. The operators opposed this decision from the beginning. They also threaten to increase the price while doing this. Even in the end they do. In one jump, the price of internet increased by 30 percent.
After that, Post and Telecommunication Minister Mustafa Jabbar expressed his anger again. In the meeting held at the office of BTRC under the chairmanship of the minister on November 5, instructions were given to reduce the prices again. The deadline is November 10.
Although the mobile operators hesitated to reduce the internet prices, due to the strict stance of the minister, the hiked prices were withdrawn after 12 pm on Saturday and reverted to the previous prices of various packages. That is, according to the latest instructions, except for 3 and 15 days duration packages, the minimum 7 and maximum 30 days packages are determined so that there will be no change in the price of the Daka pack at that time. In other words, BTRC gave the instruction that the three-day package should be given at the same price for a period of seven days while reducing the number of packages. But for the first time companies have not taken this into account.
When asked to speak to a director of BTRC, he expressed his inability to speak citing matters beyond his responsibility.
Director of Teletalk’s ‘Network expansion and 5G service in rural areas’ project. Khairul Hasan said, ‘We have received the goods of this project. They will be installed soon. Hope to see a change by December.’
If compared with Teletalk’s internet and bundle packs, it can be seen that the package rates of private service provider companies are 45-50 percent higher. Generally, the price of any product decreases when you buy it in larger quantities. According to that, the cost of the customer to buy the 40 GB and 800 minutes pack of Teletalk is only Tk 548. Whereas compared to the current market rate, the minimum 60 paisa minute is considered, but the price of every 1 GB of internet is only 1 taka 70 paisa. On the contrary, the customer has to pay Tk 799 to buy the 30 GB and 700 minutes pack of the private telecom Grameen Phone, which is more than 45 percent compared to Teletalk.
Because it is owned by the government, Teletalk gets special benefits in network expansion. Therefore, the company has a much higher capacity to serve customers at a lower cost. Moreover, there is no tendency to make excessive profits. But unfortunately due to lack of network customers are not able to take this advantage.
When asked what is the reason behind this, Sandeep Kumar Biswas, the officer (director) of the system operation department of the organization said, ‘We have some limitations. There are only 5 thousand Teletalk network stations (towers) across the country. That is negligible compared to other private companies – as low as one fifth. We are trying to get it to a satisfactory place. Currently we have a project going on. I wouldn’t say December exactly, but hopefully there will be some change in the next six months. But that too is little compared to other operators. However, we are likely to have some more projects. If they get proper investment and are implemented, hopefully we can reach a place of capacity. Then it can give relief to the customer.’
Sandeep Kumar Biswas said, ‘We constantly say from the system. Give the demand letter. Because, no matter how much we improve the system – without the necessary stations, it will not be possible to reach everywhere the network.’
Grameenphone started business in Bangladesh in 1997 and Banglalink in 1999. Banglalink has minimum 50 thousand network stations compared to other operators. On the contrary, Teletalk started its journey in 2004, but why is it so far behind? Asked whether there is a reason behind this to protect the exclusive interests of private business groups, president of ‘Bangladesh Mobile Consumers Association’ Mohiuddin Ahmed said, “All senior officials of Teletek are government officials. They have no accountability at work. They have no idea whether the customer is satisfied or not. They have no desire for customer service. He is doing government jobs, getting salary, getting benefits. Barajo is being transferred elsewhere if accused of irregularities. Because of this there is no professionalism in their work. The main objective with which the government established Teletalk is not being implemented due to lack of accountability. At least a competitive market would have been created if Teletalk had been able to expand its network. As it is not, the private companies are getting the opportunity to monopolize the business”.
Grameenphone’s minimum 1GB internet price for seven days is Tk 48. In the same period, the price of 2 GB is Rs. 69. Same picture with Robi-Airtel. Generally most of the internet users cannot use 2GB internet for two days. It ends before that. But even in this time of high inflation, a person can easily last two days if he buys the same price of rice.
In this situation, Mohiuddin Ahmed said, ‘Absolutely not.’ In the absence of a competitive market, companies are setting prices as they wish. Constantly cheating customers. It is not only the responsibility of that company or Teletalk. BTRC is also responsible. Companies cannot announce a package at will. Package requires approval. Why BTRC is approving this unreasonable price, they cannot avoid this responsibility. We are repeatedly trying to draw the attention of the concerned authorities to revise the prices of all the services of the mobile phone service companies. And in that case the decision has to be taken with the opinions of other stakeholders including customer representatives. Otherwise the interests of customers will not be protected.’
(Dhaka Times/12 November/SS/KM)