Internet in Bangladesh

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Like many developed and developing countries, the Internet in Bangladesh has witnessed phenomenal growth. Although facing many constraints in expanding Internet access and use, development of the Internet and Information Technology are high government priorities. In 2013, Internet users in Bangladesh increased to 33 million.[1]

Internet top-level domain[edit]

The top-level domain for Bangladesh is .bd.

Evolution[edit]

Starting in the early 1990s, Bangladesh had dialup access to e-mail using the Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs) of a few local providers, but the number of users did not total more than 500. Users were charged by the kilobyte and email was transferred from the BBS service providers to the rest of the world by international dialup using UUCP.

In June 1996 the first VSAT base data circuit in the country was commissioned and the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) granted licenses to two Internet Service Providers (ISPs). In subsequent years more liberal government policies led to a rapid expansion of the industry, resulting in over 180 registered ISP's by 2005. ISPs are currently regulated by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) through the Bangladesh Telecommunications Act.[2]

In May 2006 Bangladesh inaugurated new submarine optic fiber connectivity as part of the 16 country consortium SEA-ME-WE 4 project. The landing station is in Cox's Bazar, the southern city near the Bay of Bengal. In July 2008 the Submarine Cable Project was transformed into the company Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), which is now responsible for all services related to the submarine cable.[3]

Between June and August 2012 international Internet service in Bangladesh was slowed following a cable cut on the eastern leg of the SEA-ME-WE 4 optical fiber cable and the fact that Bangladesh does not have an alternative submarine cable or other high-speed international connections. In 2014 the new SEA-ME-WE 5 cable is expected to provide an alternative operating at 100 Gbit/s, roughly 10 times faster than the current connection.[4]

Usage[edit]

The number of Internet subscriptions in Bangladesh grew from 186,000 in 2000 to 617,300 in 2009.[5] However, only 0.4% of the population used the Internet in 2009 giving Bangladesh one of the lowest usage percentages in the world, ahead of only North Korea, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone.[6] This limited Internet penetration is due to many factors, including: high costs, little local content, limited or poor service quality, lack of infrastructure with the last mile often limited to dial-up, too many providers competing in a relatively small market, and low literacy rates.[7] By 2011 however, the number of Internet users in Bangladesh had seen phenomenal growth of over 900% bringing the total number of users to 5,501,609 (3.5% of the total population) mainly due to wide availability of mobile Internet access.[8]

In April 2010, Akhtaruzzaman Manju, president of Internet Service Providers' Association of Bangladesh, said "we've estimated that nearly 10 million people in the country are using 800,000 Internet connections on sharing basis", adding the number of Internet users in the country is increasing roughly 15-16 percent a year.[9] “This increased Internet penetration will result in a 2.6 per cent contribution to the country’s GDP by 2020, while creating 129 thousand more jobs by the same year” the research added.[10]

The main obstacle to using the Internet in Bangladesh is its distribution. The Internet is still an urban privilege because telephone connections are more concentrated in urban areas, particularly in and around Dhaka. Mobile operators are providing substantial services in and outside urban areas using EDGE/GPRS or EVDO.

Service quality[edit]

The Internet’s speed in Bangladesh is not among the fastest in the world but it has significantly developed in the recent past.[11] As of April 2014, Bangladesh ranked 138th out of 190 countries on the Household Download Index by Net Index.[12]

Internet connectivity with acceptable quality and reliability is generally quite expensive in Bangladesh. Since connecting to the SEA-ME-WE 4 cable in 2006, the country has seen Internet bandwidth prices drop significantly. In 2008, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) slashed wholesale Internet bandwidth prices drastically, from BDT 80,000 (approximately US$1,125) per Mbit/s to BDT 18,000 (approximately US$250) per Mbit/s. In 2009, after complaints that retail prices were still too high for slow, unreliable connections, the BTRC indicated that they were going to begin monitoring ISPs to ensure that retail prices reflected the reduced wholesale prices.[11]

The government sees information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a key driver of socioeconomic development. This is reflected in the government's "Digital Bangladesh" plan as well as the National Information and Communication Technology Policy.[11] Bangladesh is slowly moving up in the world-wide ICT rankings, rising from 130th in 2009 to 113th in 2012 in the "networked readiness index". But, while its ITC ranking has improved, Bangladesh still lags behind other low-income countries of its stature. Progress is limited due to deficiencies in the regulatory framework and infrastructure development.[13][14] And ICT leaders are concerned that the annual budget does not support the government's ICT goals.[15]

Internet services[edit]

National Internet Exchanges (NIXs) and International Internet Gateways (IIGs)[edit]

All ISPs and equivalent service providers in Bangladesh exchange traffic via two systems, the National Internet Exchange (NIX) and International Internet Gateways (IIGs).[16][17] The IIGs provide global Internet connectivity, while all domestic Internet traffic is routed via the NIX to minimize usage of international bandwidth.[18] The NIX consists of two exchange points known as the Bangladesh Internet Exchange (BDIX) established in August 2004 and operated by the Sustainable Development Networking Programme and the Peering Society of Bangladesh[19] and the Bangladesh Society of Internet Exchange (BSIX) established in May 2004.[20] In June 2012 the BTRC announced plans to issue an unrestricted number of additional NIX licenses.[21] There are two IIGs in service operated by, Mango Teleservices Limited[22] and the government owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL).[23]

There are concerns that, with a limited number of NIX operators, only two IIG operators, and with BSCCL holding a monopoly as the only operator of the SEA-ME-WE fiber optic cables, limited competition will keep the cost of raw bandwidth high.[24][25][26]

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)[edit]

In 2005 there were more than 180 ISPs operating in the country.[2] ISP's are regulated by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC). In 2011 there were 111 licensed ISPs providing services nationwide[27] and 84 ISPs providing services in the central zone.[28]

Mobile operators[edit]

Because fixed line penetration rates are and are expected to remain low, most Bangladeshis' first experience with the Internet is likely to be via mobile services. An estimated 90% of Bangladesh's Internet users got their access using mobile services in 2010.[7] Out of the six mobile operators, only Teletalk offers 3G services in all areas, others offer 3G Internet service on some specific areas and EDGE or GPRS GSM Internet service on rest of the areas. Operators are working on expanding their 3G services on all areas. The sole CDMA operator, Citycell, offers EVDO.[29][30]

Broadband[edit]

Broadband Internet and e-commerce in Bangladesh is slowly progressing. In 2009 there were 50,000 fixed broadband Internet subscribers.[31] Though broadband Internet access is available, the charges for high speed connections are higher than in other south Asian countries, though this is changing. In Bangladesh Broadband is legally defined as 128/128 kbit/s, which is not in line with the ITU's definition and many broadband Internet services may not be considered true broadband internationally.[32]

List of Broadband internet service provider[edit]

Infolink

WiMAX[edit]

Three companies, BanglaLion Communications Ltd., Brac Bdmail Network Ltd., and Augere Wireless Broadband Bangladesh Ltd., won licenses to operate WiMAX in Bangladesh in September 2008.[33] The three firms purchased the licenses at auction for 2.15 billion BDT (US$31 million) from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission under an agreement that pays 27.50% of revenue to the government. Brac Bdmail declined to start the service.[34] BanglaLion and Augere (branded as Qubee) launched commercial WiMax services by the end of 2009.[35][36]

From October 2011 Access Telecom (BD) Ltd. and Tackyon started giving fixed WiMax services to their clients.

Cyber cafés and Local Service Providers (LSPs)[edit]

Expensive and slow connections available from individual homes has created a demand for cyber cafés with higher than average bandwidth. The number of cyber cafés was estimated to be roughly 800 in 2009, unchanged from 2005.[37] Cyber cafés were first regulated by the BTRC in 2009, but fewer than 150 had obtained the required license by the end of 2011.[38][39]

Many cyber cafés have expanded as Local Service Providers (LSPs) as a way to make use of their idle (out of business hours) bandwidth. Because the root problem of scarce bandwidth remains, LSP subscribers continue to suffer from slow connections and inadequate bandwidth (96-128 kbit/s on average).[citation needed] A general complaint of customers and internet users is that such subscriptions are good for nothing except for surfing rich-text and images over the web.[citation needed] The younger internet users in the urban areas have started to familiarize themselves with other more data demanding internet applications and usage. But streaming applications fail to work over low bandwidth. Games, voice, video-conferencing and the like also suffer from latency issues. Further, these LSPs are known to forcefully cache web resources (transparent proxies) and to aggressively block traffic related to the following applications in order to save bandwidth: Windows update, TeamViewer and similar remote assistance applications, Torrent trackers and other P2P ports/patterns, voice/video applications which mostly make use of P2P architecture, online gaming and just about anything else except WWW. Some LSPs generally block all ports except HTTP/HTTPS. Bandwidth/latency benchmarking sites including SpeedTest.net are blocked to stop customers from complaining about their share of bandwidth.[citation needed]

Despite these limitations, LSPs seem to do quite well by keeping the majority of the customers happy with local FTP servers, mostly filled with pirated movies, software, games, TV-series, and the like.[citation needed]

Internet censorship and surveillance[edit]

The OpenNet Initiative found little or no evidence of filtering in 2011.[40][41]

Although Internet access in Bangladesh is not restricted by a national level filtering regime, the state has intervened to block Web sites for hosting anti-Islamic content and content deemed subversive. Internet content is regulated by existing legal frameworks that restrict material deemed defamatory or offensive, as well as content that might challenge law and order.[41]

The Bangla blogging platform Sachalayatan was reported to be inaccessible on 15 July 2008, and was forced to migrate to a new IP address. Although the blocking was not officially confirmed, Sachalayatan was likely Bangladesh’s inaugural filtering event. YouTube was blocked for a few days in March 2009 in order to protect the “national interest”. The disputed video covered a partial audio recording of a meeting between the prime minister and military officials, who were angry at the government’s handling of a mutiny by border guards in Dhaka that left more than seventy people dead.[42]

Facebook was blocked by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) for 7 days starting on 29 May 2010 because of "obnoxious images", including depictions of Mohammed and several of the country's political officials as well as links to pornographic sites.[43] The block was lifted after Facebook agreed to remove the offensive content.[44] During the same period a 30-year-old man was arrested in the Bangladeshi capital on charges of uploading satiric images of some political leaders on Facebook.[45]

The BTRC again blocked YouTube access in September 2012 after Google, Inc. ignored requests to remove the controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, from the site.[46]

On 16 May 2013 BTRC asked the international internet gateway operators to reduce the upload bandwidth of ISPs by 75% in an effort to prevent illegal VoIP.[47] There is speculation that the bandwidth reduction is actually an effort to make it difficult for people to upload ‘problematic’ videos, images, TV talk show clips, etc. in the social media.[48]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rafiqul Islam Azad (31 May 2013). "33 million Internet users in Bangladesh". The Independent (Dhaka: Independent Publications Limited). Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b "A short history of the Bangladesh ISP Industry", Internet Service Providers Association Bangladesh, accessed 27 September 2011
  3. ^ "BSCCL website"
  4. ^ "Bangladesh suffers internet disruption after cut cable", BBC News, 8 June 2012
  5. ^ "Internet users", World Bank, accessed 27 September 2011
  6. ^ "Internet users (per 100 people)", The World Bank
  7. ^ a b Bangladesh Telecoms Sector: Challenges & Opportunities, Ifty Islam, Asian Tiger Capital Research, November 2010
  8. ^ "Internet World Stats", Source: ITU
  9. ^ "Roundup: Internet use on rise in Bangladesh", iStockAnalyst, 29 April 2010
  10. ^ "Internet subscribers may reach 18.3m by 2020: The Financial Express, 22 January 2010", Bangladesh ICT Insight, 26 January 2010
  11. ^ a b c "Internet in Bangladesh". Country report: Bangladesh. OpenNet Initiative. 6 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Household Download Index (February 27, 2010 - August 28, 2012)", Net Index by Ookla, 28 August 2012
  13. ^ "Bangladesh moving slowly up in ICT: Analysts say weak regulatory regimes cast a blight on the sector", Abdullah Mamun, The Daily Star, 12 August 2012
  14. ^ Rizanuzzaman Laskar (22 July 2007). "BTTB fails to reap benefit from submarine cable, Officials say they lack infrastructure to offer public the benefit of this fast and efficient facility". Daily Star. 
  15. ^ Jamal Uddin (4 May 2012). "Leaders of ICT sector unhappy with budget". The Financial Express. 
  16. ^ International Long Distance Telecommunications Services (ILDTS) Policy-2007, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), accessed 27 September 2011
  17. ^ "IGW, ICX and IIG", Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), retrieved 29 August 2012
  18. ^ "Telecoms Infrastructure", Board of Investment, Prime Minister's Office, Bangladesh
  19. ^ "Internet Exchange Directory: Bangladesh Internet Exchange", Packet Clearing House, Retrieved 10 September 2012
  20. ^ "Bangladesh Society of Internet Exchange", Packet Clearing House, Retrieved 10 September 2012
  21. ^ "NIX guideline okayed", Jamal Uddin, Financial Express, 28 June 2012
  22. ^ Mango Teleservices Limited, accessed 27 September 2011
  23. ^ Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL), accessed 27 September 2011
  24. ^ Sunil Tagare (9 May 2012). "Bangladesh to Remain a Monopoly Forever". Sunil Tagare's personal views on the Telecom industry. 
  25. ^ Sunil Tagare (29 April 2012). "Who will Regulate the Regulators?". Sunil Tagare's personal views on the Telecom industry. 
  26. ^ "BSCCL's Facebook post about its own monopoly power". 
  27. ^ List of national ISPs, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), accessed 27 September 2011
  28. ^ List of central zone ISPs, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), accessed 27 September 2011
  29. ^ Jamal Uddin (29 July 2012). "GP denied chance of 3G test run". The Financial Express. 
  30. ^ Jamal Uddin (12 July 2012). "Teletalk to enter 3G era in Sept". The Financial Express. 
  31. ^ "Fixed broadband Internet subscribers: Bangladesh 2009", World Bank, accessed 27 September 2011
  32. ^ "Birth of Broadband - Frequently Asked Questions", International Telecommunication Union, September 2003
  33. ^ "3 Companies won WiMAX Licenses in Bangladesh", Hasibul Islam's Blog, 25 September 2008
  34. ^ "BRAC's BDmail Network Declines Wimax Licence in Bangladesh", Inside Bauani's Mind, 16 November 2008
  35. ^ "BanglaLion to Start WiMAX Service in Bangladesh from 1st June", WiMAXian, 29 March 2009
  36. ^ "Wimax in Bangladesh", Muhibbul Muktadir Tanim on WiMAX360, 22 December 2009
  37. ^ "", Md Hasan, The Daily Star, 9 July 2009
  38. ^ "Cyber Cafe", angladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, retrieved 10 September 2012
  39. ^ "Most of cyber cafes run sans licences", Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan , Financial Express, 2 February 2012
  40. ^ Open Network Initiative Summarized global Internet filtering data spreadsheet, 8 November 2011
  41. ^ a b "Bangladesh Country Profile", OpenNet Initiative, 6 August 2012
  42. ^ "ONI Regional Overview: Asia", OpenNet Initiative, June 2009
  43. ^ "Pakistan Lifts Facebook Ban; Bangladesh Cracks Down", Rebekah Heacock, OpenNet Initiative, 1 June 2010
  44. ^ "Bangladesh unblocks Facebook after Muhammad row", BBC News, 6 June 2010
  45. ^ "Facebook blocked", The Daily Star, 30 May 2010
  46. ^ "YouTube may return in Dec: BTRC", Shamim Ahamed , bdnews24.com, 3 Nov 2012
  47. ^ "BTRC cuts upload bandwidth", bdnews24.com, 17 May 2013
  48. ^ "Reduction of internet speed is digital tyranny", Shafquat Rabbee, opinion, bdnews24.com, 18 May 2013

External links[edit]

Abul Kalam Azad; Nazrul Islam (1997). "Overview of Internet Access in Bangladesh: Impact, Barriers, and Solutions". INET97 Proceedings. Internet Society.