Like with other businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic has dealt quite a blow to the country's telecom sector with four mobile network operators losing 44 lakh subscribers in April.
The telecom operators witnessed a steep fall of 24 lakh mobile network and 20 lakh mobile internet users.
In April, the number of mobile subscribers dropped to 162.920 million from 165.337 million in March, according to a newly released data of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
Now, the supplementary duty hike on mobile phone services – from 10 to 15 percent – in the proposed budget is another blow to the telecom sector which is already reeling from the novel coronavirus pandemic, the operators said.
Customers will have to pay Tk133.25 to avail services worth Tk100 – owing to the tax hike.
The operators now fear that the sector could suffer more in the coming days from the effects of both Covid-19 and higher taxes.
Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) said this is happening as the pandemic impacted the sector and other businesses as well.
AMTOB Secretary General Brig Gen SM Farhad (retd) said, "[The novel] coronavirus has affected the country's mobile sector for the last couple of months as it has all other businesses. People are communicating less than previously and organic growth is now on a downtrend."
Since the novel coronavirus has made inroads in the country, the number of mobile subscribers has begun to decrease, and this is happening with all mobile operators.
Of the operators, Grameenphone lost 9.7 lakh, Robi 8.7 lakh and Banglalink 4.9 lakh subscribers at the end of April.
Banglalink, one of the leading operators, thinks that the subscription loss happened as some subscribers could not recharge their SIM cards because of the shutdown of shops and businesses across the country during the nationwide general holidays.
Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer at Banglalink said, "We believe that many potential subscribers could not avail our services and many of our current customers faced difficulties in recharging their accounts over the last few months due to the long nationwide Covid-19-induced lockdown and movement restrictions. Considering this fact, we have extended the validities of our products and free SMS facilities so that they remain connected in these difficult times."
"We are fully committed to serving our customers despite facing operational challenges during this difficult time," he added.
According to the BTRC, a subscriber is a biometric-verified user who has conducted any activity – in terms of voice, data or SMS – at least once in the preceding 90 days.
In April: Grameenphone Limited had 74.361 million, Robi Axiata Limited 48.843 million, Banglalink Digital Communications Limited 34.876 million. and Teletalk Bangladesh Limited 4,840 million subscribers.
Last February, the number of mobile network users was on the rise. At that time: Grameenphone had 75.860 million, Robi 49.611 million, Banglalink 35.770 million, and Teletalk 4.873 million subscribers.
In the same way, in April, the number of internet users also declined to 101.186 million from 103.253 million in March.
Of the total internet subscribers, in April, there were 93.101 million mobile internet users, 0.002 WiMAX users and 8.084 million ISP+PSTN users in the country.
Just in one month, some 20.66 lakh users ended their mobile internet subscriptions.
Internet subscribers are subscribers who have accessed the internet at least once in the preceding 90 days.