Bangladesh besting China, a tech-savvy nation, in broadband speed. Sounds implausible? But the latest Worldwide Broadband Speed League indicates so.
Between July last year and June this year, the study tested nearly 50,000 unique IPs in Bangladesh 467,000 times and found the average Internet speed was 3.2 Mbps.
In contrast, the average Internet speed in China was 2.1 Mbps.
Other than this unbelievable development, the study, which was unveiled on Wednesday, presented a grim picture of the state of the country's Internet connection.
Bangladesh ranked 184 out of the 221 countries where the broadband speed tests were run by M-Lab.
Even many Sub Saharan countries such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mali had better average speed, according to the study prepared by cable.co.uk.
In South Asia too, it came behind Nepal (150), Bhutan (159), the Maldives (141), Sri Lanka (72) and India (101).
And what's more depressing is that Bangladesh fared better in previous year's ranking: it came in at 151 out of 207 countries.
The industry stakeholders, however, seemed taken aback by the ranking.
Mustafa Jabbar, posts and telecommunication minister, questioned the reliability of the report.
"I don't understand on what basis they put us below Nepal and Bhutan in this tally when these two countries are requesting us to give them bandwidth from our country," he told The Business Standard on Thursday.
However, he acknowledged that in remote parts of the country the Internet speed is not ideal.
"Before the outbreak of coronavirus, the Internet was not used on a large scale in rural areas. But, for the last seven months, the Internet has become a major part of our lives, both in urban and rural areas."
He went on to assure that all upazilas will be connected under the fibre optic cable by the end of 2021.
"Then, rural people will get the same quality of Internet as the urban people," Jabbar added.
Md. Emdadul Hoque, the secretary-general of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), echoed the same as Jabbar about rural Internet speed dragging down the country's ranking.
"But we have good broadband speed in all divisional cities."
To rectify the situation, he urged the government to issue more Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) licences.
Currently, there are five NTTN operators, with Summit Communication and [email protected] holding the lion's share of the transmission line.
"Whatever the ranking is, people are getting good Internet service," said Md Ahmed Junayed, vice-president of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh.
But for better service, a third submarine cable has become essential.
"At least two new links are needed. A direct submarine cable is especially needed with Singapore," he added.
Meanwhile, Liechtenstein came on top in this year's league, with an average Internet speed of about 230 Mbps -- enough to download a 5GB file in less than 3 minutes.
Jersey, Andorra, Gibraltar and Luxembourg rounded off the top five spots, where it takes between 3 to 6 minutes to download a 5GB file.
South Sudan came at the bottom with a download speed of about 0.6 Mbps.