Interview: Yasir Azman

Increasing internet and smartphone usage is the bigger challenge now

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has given unified license to mobile operators for providing services. Chief executive officer (CEO) of Grameenphone (GP) Yasir Azman recently spoke to several media including Prothom Alo about receiving the licence and the country’s telecommunication sector.


You have received unified license recently, how do you plan to move forward with that?

Answer: It has been in the works for three years. We too have been preparing to launch new innovative services and products for the customers.  Regulatory compliance has become so easy now. Having a unified license has also made business management much easier.


Are you ready for 5G, and how will it benefit the people?

Answer: The unified license and 5G is not the same thing. But the license we would have required in future for 5G won’t be needed anymore. 5G won’t work without a strong fiber backbone. We have doubled fiberisation in the past two years.

5G won’t have any major effect or bring huge changes in case of consumer’s personal use. People only need 4G. Meanwhile, 5G will be used in industrial production, agriculture and advanced technology. This will lead country’s ports to work in automation. Now the fiberisation and network modernisation have to be done in the quickest possible time.

Yasir Azman

Many countries of the world including India have already started using 5G. Will Bangladesh lag behind if 5G arrives late?

Answer: I believe people in Bangladesh adopt technology faster. If Bangladesh is to move to 5G, data and digital lifestyle, we need to work on increasing smartphone usage at the moment. Data subscription in the country is not increasing in general. So the focus should be on increasing the use of data and smartphone. Increasing data and smartphone usage is the bigger challenge now.


Smartphone usage is below 50 per cent and internet users are 31 per cent. Why is that?

Answer: When we say smart Bangladesh, smart economy, smart citizens, smart government, smart society, it is very encouraging. However, connectivity, digital lifestyle and use of technology are intricately linked with this. If we cannot take facilities available in Dhaka to the marginalised people, inequality in the society will keep increasing.

Those who are privileged will have greater progress and the one who are backward will fall behind even further. We need to connect people with smartphones faster and focus on making smartphones easily accessible. We have to think about how the government can adopt a tax policy to reduce the prices.

Operators themselves offer smartphones on installments with postpaid connections worldwide. But this model doesn’t work in Bangladesh where 95 per cent of the connections are prepaid. There can be a system, where operators, phone manufacturers, mobile financial service providers and banks can work together to provide smartphones to people on installments.

Yasir Azaman

What percentage of your customers is using smartphones now?

Answer: Smartphone usage among our customers would be around 50 per cent. People don’t have smartphones in their hands, so how do we provide them with the services? How would you provide 5G service where you cannot even reach 4G service to most people?

A large portion of the country’s phone users are still left in the 2G or second generation service era. But I am hopeful, if the government helps a bit on issues including unified license and smartphone loans to increase the use of smartphones, people will quickly adopt that.


Data prices are going out of reach for the middle class, how do you see that?

Answer: The price of data in Bangladesh is much lower compared to the price of data around the world. Earlier, where the requirement was 1 GB, now it is 6 GB. The price will be higher or lower depending on what you use it for. Someone doing freelancing wants a good connection even if the price is higher.

If you spend time on social media, it will seem that it’s costing more. Newer technology has to be introduced and data usage has to be increased. Then the cost of the operator will reduce down. We have to pay taxes same as luxury items. If there is a change in government’s tax policy and an increase in investments, the cost will be lower on the whole.

Also Read