Although Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in Asia, economic difficulties have hindered investment in network infrastructure for many years. As a consequence, Bangladesh now shows an underdeveloped fixed-line market and one of the lowest rates in fixed-line penetration in Southern Asia.
The Internet penetration rate was close to 57% by June, 2019. The country has a modern telecom system in many respects with a nationwide microwave radio relay system, a domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations, and a fiber-optic network linking 50 cities. Fixed-line teledensity remains less than 1 per 100 persons, while mobile-cellular telephone subscribership has been increasing rapidly and now exceeds 101 telephones per 100 persons. Mobile subscriber growth is anticipated over the next five years to 2023.
Bangladesh suffers from poor fixed-line infrastructure, which also affects its fixed broadband penetration rate. Therefore, a large chunk of its population prefers mobile broadband solutions. The Bangladesh Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has therefore relaunched a modernisation project in order to improve the country’s telecom infrastructure that will be in place until 2024 at least. Bangladesh’s mobile market is also under-developed, although it has experienced strong growth in the past few years, including budding 5G services. The government expects to to provide national 5G coverage by 2026. The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) is the regulatory authority for this sector, overseeing licensing, policy, and other issues.
Bangladesh’s economy has grown roughly 6% per year since 1996 despite prolonged periods of political instability, poor infrastructure, endemic corruption, insufficient power supplies, and slow implementation of economic reforms. Although more than half of GDP is generated through the services sector, almost half of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculture sector, with rice as the single-most-important product.
Garment exports, the backbone of Bangladesh’s industrial sector, accounted for more than 80% of total exports and surpassed $25 billion in 2016. The sector continues to grow, despite a series of high-profile factory accidents that have killed more than 1,000 workers and crippling strikes, including a nationwide transportation blockade orchestrated by the political opposition during the first several months of 2015. Steady export growth in the garment sector combined with remittances from overseas Bangladeshis are key contributors to Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth and rising foreign exchange reserves.
Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) is the largest telecommunications company in Bangladesh. The company was founded as the Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board (BTTB) following Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. In 2008, the BTTB became a public limited company and was renamed as BTCL. The Bangladesh government initially owned all BTCL shares, but stated it would sell the shares to the public. BTCL provides land-line telephone services in Bangladesh’s urban areas, including domestic long-distance calling and international services as well as internet services. The monopoly held by BTCL was broken when other operators started to receive licenses from 2007.