The number of Internet users is increasing in an exponential rate in Bangladesh. Submarine cable has really ignited the boom in this sector. But it is the infrastructure hasn’t really helped the end users to get the full benefit of it. Specially broadband internet has a very limited coverage and can really meet a very little number of people. The broadband that many local ISPs or bandwidth distributors provide can hardly be said as broadband since most of them provide less than 10 KiloByte (80 kbps) to the end users. The government is lowering the bandwidth cost, but the benefit of this is going to these ISPs and distributors. Their bandwidth cost is going down but they hardly lower their price for their offerings to the end users.
It is also true that some of the ISPs are providing fair enough bandwidth (per second) at a reasonable price. But they can’t increase their coverage due to some local providers. These local providers don’t allow other bigger ISPs to operate in their areas specially through cable service. They often snatch the cables of the bigger ISPs in their areas restricting them in their areas and thus depriving the people of that certain area.
Some of the ISPs have started offering radio link (wireless) services at a very reasonable price for the home internet users. X-net (http://www.xpressbd.net) is one of them. The connection fee is only 3000 taka which includes all setup fee. The monthly packages are also fair enough (128 kb- 1000 tk, 188 kb- 1350 tk, 288 kb- 1650 tk) . Eastern Link Bangladesh (http://www.smile.com.bd) is another ISP providing internet through Optical Fiber Cable (upto user end) and for that they only charge 1000 taka. They have a big coverage area in Dhaka city and their packages are very dynamic to meet the demands of various categories of people.
There are many other ISPs who are providing very good services, therefore don’t stick to the one if you aren’t happy with its service and if you got option to get the other ones.
The biggest prospectus method of internet connection will be through telecom sector. I have discussed in my earlier posts how those can influence in increasing internet users in Bangladesh. Internet through mobile phones or fixed wireless phones are really widening the scope since their coverage is country wide and it will not require any further infrastructure to provide internet service to the people. GrameenPhone has covered most of the part of the country with EDGE services. Other GSM operators have already started deploying EDGE network (GPRS exists already) in different part of the country. Citycell being the only CDMA mobile provider has also done a good job by deploying CDMA-1x network and also offering high speed internet.
Let’s get back to three-four years time – A mobile phone call cost was 7 Taka per minute and dialup internet charge was 40-50 paisa per minute. A broadband connection at that time was 1000 – 1500 taka for 4-15 kilobyte per second. Now, a mobile phone call costs not more than 1 Taka (even as low as 25 paisa) and what about the Internet scenario? How much has the internet cost reduced? If telecom service providers can reduce their cost that much why couldn’t the inhabitants feel the change in Internet sector?? – where as we got the revolutionary Submarine cable connection. Many a people say that the introduction of new competitors in the mobile phone sectors was the key to the reduction of mobile phone service cost. But there are even more competitors in the Internet service but still the price is not going down. Moreover, the government has reduced the bandwidth charge in several occasions. Maybe the number of internet users are growing in more pace than the service providers and therefore the demand hasn’t gone down. Since there is a gap between demand and supply the service providers are taking chance. Another reason may be because of the inexperienced local internet providers. Unlike cable TV, the government should restrict the local Internet providers most of whom buy a chunk of bandwidth and redistribute it to a certain area. Internet Service should come through ISPs upto a certain standard who can maintain service level and ensure a minimum speed.
So we’ve got even more ways of getting internet connection coming to us. But it is the lack of a certain code of conduct by the government which will allow people to get a minimum service level for the amount they are paying. Someone is paying 700 taka to get 30 Kilobyte speed and on the other hand there are some people who are paying 1500 taka or more to get 4-5 Kilobyte per second. This really isn’t fair. What government should do is to fix a price tag for different bandwidth for the home users. And example of a speed – price structure can be as follows:
- 64 kbps – 300 taka per month
- 128 kbps – 500 taka per month
- 256 kbps – 800 taka per month
- 512 kbps – 1200 taka per month
- 1 mbps – 2000 taka per month
Shared or Dedicated?
Since the ISPs have a large number of clients therefore even if their Bandwidth User ratio is higher the clients will get better speed. Many of us are not aware of how the bandwidth is distributed among the users. But I believe most of you have heard the terms “Shared” and “Dedicated”. Shared bandwidth means a number of clients are given a certain bandwidth which will be shared among themselves. For example 10 home users are given a 256 ( 32 Kilobytes) per second. If all of the 10 users uses the connection at its full pace they are supposed to get 25.6 kbps (3.2 Kilobyte/ps). But it is a fact that not all the users use the connection simultaneously. Therefore if 4 users are active, they will get the 256 kbps that is 8 kilobyte per second(64 kbps). Now think that if the ISP has more users and fixes 2 mbps for 100 users the ratio remains same. Now if we again consider 40 % active users therefore there will be 40 out of 100 clients active. Again not all of them will be using the internet at its full pace. Some will be casually browsing, some will be just chatting and some will be connected yet not transfering any data. So users who will be downloading will get the most of the speeds. This is the benefit of being a client of the bigger ISP.
On the other hand Dedicated speed doesn’t really mean that a client will get exactly the committed speed. Infact dedicated speed does mean the minimum speed a client will get. Same Bandwidth- User ratio exists there in Dedicated connection. But here the gap is low. I mean, there are less users for more bandwidth.
Most of the ISPs pay to their bandwidth supplier in bandwidth per second format. Therefore It is useless if a chunk of bandwidth is reserved for a certain client and the client doesn’t use that. The distribution format described in the earlier two paras ensure that the bandwidth is not wasted. A good ISP maintains a little gap in the Bandwidth-User ratio and maintains better bandwidth management mechanism to maximize the profit yet maintaining good service level. Local Internet providers buy a small bandwidth and tries to maximize their outcome by distributing the bandwidth to as many users as possible and do possess no bandwidth management mechanisms, which is the ultimate reason of poor quality service and less bandwidth.
Therefore if your local internet provider do say that we’ve got 320 kbps or 512 kbps connection, don’t be flattered. Ask them how many users they have and also ask them what will be their committed speed. I can remember there were many seminars, processions, meetings and protests to reduce mobile phone cost. But I can hardly remember such initiatives by the internet users. It is the time to be aware of what we are supposed to get and if we (Bangladesh) really want to flourish in the ICT sector in Bangladesh.
– Hasibul Islam
(Also available at NSUers.com with a poll)