Mobile ownership

A new report, released by the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSMA) in April 2018, outlined the rapid growth of the Bangladesh mobile industry over the last decade, which now makes is the fifth largest mobile market in the Asia Pacific region. The mobile industry plays a crucial role in supporting the achievement of the government’s Vision 2021 and Digital Bangladesh initiatives, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As of June 2018, there are 150.94m active mobile phone connections in Bangladesh. The number looks big because a significant portion of mobile phone users own multiple connections. As per GSMA Mobile Economy Report 2018, the phone penetration rate in Bangladesh is 51%. Of the total 87.79 million Internet users, about 82.02 million use Internet through their mobile phones. The current worth of the handset market in Bangladesh is BDT100bn, of which smartphone consist of BDT70bn. Some 70 percent of the mobile users use feature phones, while the remaining have smartphones. Handset units worth BDT33.4m were imported in 2017, of which 8.2 million units were smartphones, according to AMTOB.

The country’s three hilly administrative districts - Bandarban, Rangamati and Khagrachari - which are home to different indigenous communities, remained outside of mobile phone coverage till 10 May, 2008. It was a long-cherished demand of the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, once a troubled region that returned to peace following the 1997 peace accord. First the state-owned Teletalk began its service but in a limited scale, followed by the private operators. However, only Robi has been able to establish a good network and many areas of the region still are out of mobile coverage.

In Bangladesh, the mobile divide is quite strong with around 40 percent of the total users having smartphones. The rest of the users simply can’t avail of many services working only on modern smartphones. Based on information provided by the mobile operators, a significant number of these users are low-income women living in rural areas.