Bangladesh has ten times the population of the average European country, while the average citizen’s monthly income is less than one thousandth of the European equivalent. Yet the Asian country is one of the largest and fastest growing mobile markets in the world, and retains high-growth potential; currently only two out of five people have subscribed to a mobile service.
The country is home to 154 million people – falling somewhere between Russia (142 million) and Brazil (200 million) – with over 70% of the population living in rural areas on $2 per day or less. Bangladesh is the ninth-largest market worldwide in terms of mobile subscribers in Q1 2013 with 62 million ‘unique’ subscribers (i.e. people) actively using 112 million mobile connections (i.e. SIM cards). Market penetration based on subscribers stands at just 40%, compared to 72% in Russia and 56% in Brazil. This shows tremendous room for growth, and explains why the country ranked 46th worldwide in terms of annual connections growth in Q1 2013 is posting double-digit growth while Russia (183rd) and Brazil (111th) both recorded low single-digit growth.
Bangladesh is one of the few countries in Asia where the nationwide deployment of high-speed mobile networks has yet to be realised (Pakistan is another). Over the past decade, the top four mobile operators (Airtel, banglalink, Grameenphone and Robi) – which between them make up 97% of the country’s mobile connections market – have been offering data services solely on 2G-GSM networks. The regulator is expected to auction 3G spectrum in the 2100 MHz band in early September this year.