Source: The Financial Express
By: Engr. Nurul Basher
Ex-Director (Microwave) BT&T
The government has been taking hard actions against some telecom operators who are purportedly using their internet facilitates for making international telephone calls. The operators are being fined millions of takas, their most valuable equipments are being confiscated and some are being banned from continuing such operations.
As a former Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board (BT&T) official, I still do not understand as to why VOIP should be declared illegal in the first place. To put it simply, I understand VOIP is transmitting speech signal through the internet bandwidth. The operator is paying his rent for the internet band width. Also he is paying for the telephone line rent and call charges. Capability to transmit voice over internet band width is made possible through the advancement of signal processing technology. Why should someone be punished for using higher technology?
I recall when in the early 1980’s fax machine was introduced, BT&T used to charge an additional amount of Tk 10,000/- per fax machine. By then I left BT & T and used to have heated argument with my friends in the BT & T top management about the matter. They introduced this charging system only because they found an extra income source without contributing anything.
Today, VOIP is declared illegal as BT & T is being unable to provide cheap service which the IP service providers are contributing. If BT & T is loosing revenue because of VOIP use by the internet operators, then it is BT&T’s fault. It is like punishing a motor bike rider by a bullock cart driver as the latter cannot catch up with the former. It is single stupidity and wrongdoing by someone who is short of in knowledge. I like to ask the authorities concerned to come clean and prove that VOIP is illegal because it is harmful to the people in the way toxic drug import is illegal because it harmful to national health. Following a bad law, even if it is a law, is harmful to the nation in the long run.
I call for a national debate and let the authorities concerned defend themselves to prove what they are doing by declaring VOIP “illegal” is right.
Qubee could well understand their lacking in business policy making. Their product design was not successful initially. They came up with more flexible packages later on. But still they found that Bangladeshi people are not responding well enough with their packages capped with data transfer limit. They are now offering two new packages withdrawing all previous offers of 256 & 512 kbps. The current packages are as follows:
Source: Qubee website
Initially the packages seemed very lucrative to me compared to many other available options in the market. I became curious and called the qubee hotline to know more about it. I asked the qubee representative what actually they tried to mean by “Fair Usage Policy”. They answered me that If some one’s usage is very high, they are going to warn the user at a certain point. This means with 256/512 kbps speed, if someone downloads continuously qubee is going to “WARN” you that your usage is violating “FAIR USAGE POLICY”. Then I asked whether they are going to impose any restriction if someone violates the Fair usage policy. They answered me that the packages offer unlimited usage and they are not going to impose any restriction. Then finally I asked them what if someone continues to download violating the fair usage policy and the warning? To be honest they didn’t answer this question of mine directly.
What this means is that they will probably reduce the bandwidth after some time. This is not an old practice in Bangladesh. We have seen GrameenPhone/Citycell offering unlimited internet packages and after few days their throughput (Speed) going down when the number of subscriber went high. This will probably happen to qubee customers also. These ISPs are there for business. The cost of dedicated 256/512 kbps is way higher than what qubee offers. 512 kbps dedicated bandwidth (through submarine cable) costs 9 thousand taka (1 mbps = 18 thousand taka). Qubee is offering it with 2250 taka. I’ll leave the rest to your understanding.
The second WiMAX operator has started its journey in Bangladesh. As far as I could learn from Banglalion’s website, they are offering their services in selected areas of Dhaka City. But definitely they’ll spread out soon. Their offers are cheaper than the first operator – Augere (QUBEE). But they couldn’t get out of the download cap too like qubee. Their offers are as follows:
||Monthly Subscription (TK)
|Value Pack (Option A)
|Value Pack (Option B)
|Value Plus (Option A)
|Value Plus (Option B)
- 300tk activation fee applies (waive with 1 year sign up)
- Additional Usage Tk. 0.15/MB
- All charges are excluding VAT
Source: BanglaLion Website.
BanglaLion is offering three types of connectivity:
- Connectivity through outdoor unit (costs 10000 taka, supports upto 6 users)
- Connectivity through indoor unit (costs 7000 taka, supports upto 6 users)
- Connectivity through WiMAX Dongle (A pen drive like device for single user)
Their offer’s are more diversified than Qubee. Currently they are offering 9 packages with different Bandwidth and download caps.
They are infact a step ahead than qubee by offering speeds upto 5 mbps. I hope BanglaLion’s entry will initiate a competition between the two operators and will ultimately bring out some really cool offers for their clients.
It seems that Augere could learn something from the responses they got from their initial packages. They’ve refined their offers and it seems that they’ve started understanding what people want from them. Current packages are as follows:
Source: Qubee website
Even the modem price has gone down. This was required for them to compete against the existing wireless (or mobile) internet service providers. But they couldn’t get out of the volume based offers. Five (5) Gigabytes for 1250 taka is still high. If they want to get the attention of mass internet users they need to offer something for less than 700 taka with minimum 10 GB data transfer.
Atlast the WiMAX service is on AIR for the consumers of Bangladesh ( specifically for the people in Gulshan, Dhaka ). It has been more than a year several companies got WiMAX operator license in Bangladesh. People of Bangladesh has been biting nails and waiting for a superspeed connectivity. Well they have it now. But is it like what people expected? Augere Wireless Broadband started providing their service with the name: QUBEE. I have gone through their website and I was seriously disappointed with the packages that were there in their website.
People were expecting for a super fast connectivity with no restriction of internet usage.
Source: QUBEE Website
Do you really think these two packages can penetrate the ISP market in Bangladesh (or perhaps in Dhaka)? Are we not familiar with similar services already? Citycell launched Mobile highspeed Internet service months ago. Let’s look at their package:
Source: Citycell Website
Are the Qubee packages any special different from the Citycell’s offer? If mobility is the key issue I will say Citycell will be a better choice here due to their wide coverage area. Otherwise there are many ISPs providing bandwidth to home/corporate users which are much cheap compared to Qubee.
Now let’s do some math. 1 mbps = 1/8 mBps. That is, in 1 minute you’ll be able to download 60/8 = 7.5 Mega Bytes. In 1 hour : 450 Mega Bytes. In this rate Qubee’s offered 9 GB will take 20 Hours to be consumed. If you download 10 DivX Movies (around 700 MB each) you’ll be able to consume the whole data Volume. 6200 taka data plan consumed in 10 Movie Downloads!! 620 taka per movie!! Really damn smart packages. I know people will say these are corporate bandwidth and are not supposed to be used for movie downloading. Well, what is the basic difference then?
Let’s consider my home Internet connection in home user’s category. I pay 1650 taka to Xnet for a 288 kbps connection. I get 30 KB (yes you are right, it’s Kilo Byte). At this rate I can download 2.6 GB per day and believe me my ISP doesn’t apply any cap on usage. Literally I can download 78 GB in exchange for 1650 taka only. Compare it with what Qubee is offering.
Now let’s consider the corporate needs. Corporate offices need seemless minimum guaranteed bandwidth for their operations. Now a days renowned ISPs charge around 14 thousand taka for 512 kbps and around 20 thousand taka for 1 mbps connection. That sounds too much compared to Qubee – isn’t it? Noooo… With the 512kbps/1mbps connections from the ISPs you can download in continuous 512kbps/1mbps for the whole month and the ISP is bound to ensure that. Now you can download for 720 hours with these ISPs at 512kbps/1mbps – compared to Qubee’s 20 Hours.
Why is Qubee charging so much!!! is this because of the WiMAX technology?? If that’s the benefit we were talking about WiMAX then I really doubt if it will be accepted by our Internet users or not. If Internet mobility is the issue, then I can say these types of mobile Highspeed internet was already there for quite a long time (ie, Accesstel’s NLOS technology, Grameen Phone’s 236 kbps Internet and Citycell’s 512 kbps Internet). If a new company launches its services with a new technology – A Buzz is required to penetrate the existing market. People will not accept this rubbish offer just to enjoy a new technology. Because when we buy or pay for anything we actually buy the services of what we are buying. Service is the important issue here. If the new technology doesn’t provide any better service, then either the company hasn’t utilized the technology perfectly or the technology itself is not efficient. But since WiMAX is running in other countries successfully we can say that Qubee’s business plan with WiMAX service is not perfect.
Smile.com.bd a popular isp with thousands of clients were forced to shut their operation off by BTRC as they were found to be engaged with illegal VOIP operation (call termination). I heard that BTRC in cooperation with RAB raided their office on last thursday and siezed VOIP devices.
Few months back another ISP named Maisha Technologies Bangladesh (mtlbd.net) were forced to shut off for same reason.
I usually use Xnet (xpressbd.net) at my home, but in my office smile’s corporate solution were used. 1 of my friend called me on last thursday and told me that he has been DC from internet & he was using smile. I found myself netless when I came to office on saturday. Rakesh, 1 of my friend who works for a renowned ISP informed me that smile was raided and all their operations were shut off completely. Later I found the manager of my office complaining that none of the many smile supports were available. However 1 of the top official of smile called him later and informed that they were doing alternate arrangements. Today, when i came to the office I found the Internet is back and heard that smile provided some new IPs (static fixed IPs for corporate connection).
When I checked it using traceroute I found that they were using a new ISP named ispros (ispros.com.bd). Smile is now using ISPROS’ bandwidth through their backbone or might have handed over the backbone to ISPROS.
I checked the bandwidth by downloading a big file using IDA and found that the speed now ranges between 25 to 30 Kilobytes per second which earlier was 50 to 60 kilobytes through smile. It is understandable that 25-30 KB is not bad enough in this scarcity, but the incident is an example of pure lack of professionalism in providing services since the VOIP devices were seized right from SMILE’s office. Moreover BTRC should not instantly shutoff an ISP like smile which has thousands of clients including many corporate clients. Many of the organizations that depend heavily on Internet for their operations were in complete outage.
On the other hand smile’s unprofessional attitude (Website down as it was hosted in local server using their own bandwidth and all the support being off as well) has proved that how volatile the Internet facility in Bangladesh is. BTRC should not only take these types of actions only but also monitor and ensure that Internet users are not disturbed by any action of BTRC and ISPs. BTRC should take an alternative arrangement and then go for actions.
I also heard from a reliable source that smile is transfering the ownership (and backbone as well) to another ISP (if not ISPROS).
DIGITAL BANGLADESH !!! (not sure what it means)… if we really dream anything like that, BTRC & and all the ISPs should show more proffesionalism in future and ensure flawless connectivity.
If, what I’ve seen in the TV news is true then, Bangladeshi people will enjoy WiMAX within 3 months. Mr. M. A Mannan of Bangla Lion communications in an interview after the license handover ceremony, said that they will be able to establish WiMAX network across Bangladesh within 3 months. He also added that people of Bangladesh may enjoy high speed internet along with mobile communication spending as low as 300 taka. He also added that, the allocated 35 MHz frequency will allow them to provide huge bandwidth to a greater number of people ensuring Quality Of Service. The more the people use it the cheaper it will be for them.
WiMAX in Bangladesh will allow people to enjoy 65 different types of facilities through it, including high speed internet, mobile communication, video surveillance, video conferencing, distant learning etc. Even remotest part of Bangladesh will be under high speed internet through WiMAX.
Augere Wireless Broadband Limited Bangladesh was the first company get the license and is also working on establishing WiMAX network across Bangladesh. Brac BDMail is the other company that has won the license, but yet to get the license due to their failure to pay the license fee.
I have some diagrams and pictures that I’d like to share with you, which might help you understand the basic functions of WiMAX and how those works.