Standard 4G internet speed remains elusive

Mobile users in Bangladesh are suffering from slower data speed despite the launch of fourth-generation (4G) technology four years ago, as operators failed to guarantee the minimum internet speed set by the regulator .

During road tests last year, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) found that mobile operators could not maintain the minimum speed of 7 Mbps as standard for 4G.

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Market leader Grameenphone could not guarantee the minimum speed in any of the country’s eight divisions, while second-ranked network operator Robi Axiata was able to maintain it in only one division, namely Rangpur, at 8. 36Mbps.

Third-placed Banglalink fared relatively better as it provided internet services at a speed of 7 Mbps across four divisions.

Banglalink’s data speed was 8.8 Mbps in Mymensingh, 8.93 Mbps in Sylhet, 7.05 Mbps in Rajshahi and 8.01 Mbps in Dhaka division, excluding the corporation areas of the city. Dhaka city.

State-run Teletalk, which introduced 5G internet service on a trial basis in December last year, was the worst performer in 4G as it delivered services with less than 3 Mbps speed everywhere , except Sylhet where the speed was 3.39. Mbps.

The commission conducted the drive-test in 267 upazilas in 59 districts, covering 14,085 kilometers to measure the quality of services provided by mobile operators.

The test began in Dhaka, where it ran from January 23 to February 8. It ended in Khulna, where it took place from November 2 to 27.

According to BTRC policy, the minimum speed for 3G service should be 2 Mbps and the minimum speed for 4G is 7 Mbps.

Not all carriers provided standard 4G speed in Dhaka, Chattogram, Barishal and Khulna, according to BTRC findings.

Many users say the experience was poor in terms of internet speed and voice calls.

“For the past three months, I haven’t been able to navigate properly because the speed is so low,” said Ahmed Tapu, a resident of the capital’s Pallabi district.

Mohammad Asif, another user in Dhaka, says internet speeds have improved a bit in recent weeks in the capital.

“But, when I go out of Dhaka or get on a transport, the data speed drops drastically. Sometimes it doesn’t even work,” he added.

Operators say the extra spectrum purchased at last year’s auction, technology upgrades and network upgrades are helping them deliver faster internet.

Speaking about the inability to maintain minimum speed, Hossain Sadat, acting director of general affairs at GP, said that 2021 was a difficult year as the company was at a crossroads to acquire network capabilities ready for the future, navigating many industry and ecosystem challenges. while meeting an unprecedented amount of connectivity needs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

GP has rolled out additional spectrum and with the help of modern radio technology it has extended Long Term Evolution (LTE) bandwidth which has further enhanced the data experience.

The improved transmission capacity and core network provided the best end-user experience, he said.

According to him, GP’s 4G internet speed is now 8 Mbps in Barishal and Khulna, and 10 Mbps in Dhaka.

“GP itself regularly conducts test drives across the country to ensure the best 4G network experience, and these efforts will continue.”

Shahed Alam, managing director and chief regulatory officer of Robi Axiata, says the quality of mobile services depends on the service customers want to use.

He says that a maximum speed of 5 Mbps is enough to support all data-based services available on the Internet.

For example, to watch a 720p quality video, a client only needs a speed of 2.5 Mbps. Customers would need a maximum speed of 5 Mbps to enjoy 1080p video.

“Due to a lack of affordable spectrum and an unreliable and poor quality fiber optic network, we mobile network operators have not accepted any minimum speed limit offered by our regulator,” said Alam.

Ankit Sureka, head of corporate communications and sustainability at Banglalink, said that following the rollout of new 9.4 MHz spectrum purchased last year, the operator currently has the largest number of frequencies. per subscriber among private operators in Bangladesh.

“As a result, we have been able to provide better and significantly improved services to our customers.”

The best speed was one of the main reasons why Banglalink managed to win the Ookla Speedtest award, which represents real-world network performance as well as internet speeds and coverage provided to customers, four times in a row.

Sureka believes that high spectrum prices, higher tax rates and lower penetration of 4G handsets are the main obstacles facing the industry today.

“The lack of a level playing field in the market is another concern.”

In addition, regulatory support to achieve efficiency through sharing of facilities and services such as tower/in-building solutions, radio access network and spectrum is also needed, he said.

A number of operator executives claim that despite the sharp decline in data prices, they have continued to invest heavily in improving network quality, but it is difficult to justify major new investments, as most of their revenue go to the public treasury. .

Mustafa Jabbar, telecommunications minister, said the government has undertaken plans to modernize and expand Teletalk’s network.

He said that compared to private operators, the investment in Teletalk is meager.

According to the 2021 Digital Quality of Life Index, released by world-renowned VPN service company Surfshark, Bangladesh has one of the worst mobile internet speeds, with the country ranking 103rd out of 110 nations.

Ghulam Rahman, chairman of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said the report of the test drive proved customers were being deprived of the service they were paying for.

“The regulator should take action to ensure that customers are compensated for poor quality services. If no compensation is awarded, BTRC should fine the operator.”

Subrata Roy Maitra, vice president of BTRC, said the result was sent to operators with instructions to fix the issues and submit a compliance report.

“Legal action will be taken in accordance with the regulations if the operators do not submit the report,” he added.

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