Relatives of Bangladeshi expats cannot contact them frequently amid the global coronavirus lockdown because mobile network operators here have not made services cheaper
Mobile phone users are receiving free data and local call services in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the telecommunications service providers have also lowered international call rates, confirmed Bangladeshi expatriates in those countries.
Both state-owned and private telecom service providers in Oman have reduced their local and international call rates till April 8. The charge for monthly data use up to 20GB has also been declared free, said Ibrahim and Shahin, two Bangladeshi expats in the country.
However, mobile phone operators in Bangladesh have neither reduced call rates, nor relieved charges on internet users amid the countrywide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The country's largest mobile phone service operator, Grameenphone, is displaying "Stay Home" notes on their signal bars; while another operator, Banglalink, is providing brief coronavirus-related information in its "Amar Tune" service.
Both operators are providing their customers with free voice calls to coronavirus hotlines.
Coronavirus-fear-infused people in Bangladesh are checking updates on their cellphones. Though the government's shutdown restricted movement, hurting peoples' incomes, their spending on mobile data services has recently spiked manifold.
Bangladeshi expatriates are experiencing numerous inconveniences, including joblessness, financial hurdles and restricted movement, due to the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
"As the pandemic breaks out, I talk to my parents in Bangladesh regularly. It would have been impossible for me to call home every day if Oman's government had not facilitated international calls," said Ibrahim Khalil, a Bangladeshi expat in Oman.
Bangladeshi expatriate in Kuwait Kauser Alam Jewel told The Business Standard that mobile network operators in the country have made local calls and mobile data free.
"Mobile phone service operators in Lebanon declared local calls and internet free for one month," said Abu Hanif, Bangladeshi expatriate there.
Bangladeshi expatriates in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia also said the countries waived the charges on local calls and internet use.
Meanwhile, according to the Grameenphone website, customers without a package must pay more than Tk1 plus VAT, SD and a surcharge for a per-minute voice call. For Grameenphone customers, 1GB 3D data for one month costs Tk189.
Robi charges Tk128 for 1GB of mobile data to be used within 28 days.
Banglalink's 1GB of data costs Tk119 while Airtel's 30-day package with 2GB data costs Tk229 and Teletalk's 1GB of data is Tk46.
"Banglalink has reduced the price of some of its monthly data packs by roughly 40 percent," said Ankit Sureka, the operator's senior manager (communications).
"We are continuing our double data bonus offer to give more to our customers. Any Banglalink prepaid customer can dial a code and all his on net SMSes will be toll free for seven days," he added.
No comment was received from Grameenphone.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, Bangladesh had 166.11 million mobile phone users and 99.98 million internet customers till February 2020.