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Will the new internet data package guidelines be fruitful?

by tbhdesk

Users worried about the cost and potential waste of data
Mobile operators directed to discontinue 3-day and 15-day internet data
Starting from October 15

Ahmed Kabir, a low-income worker, has become accustomed to relying on office Wi-Fi during working hours. However, when he ventures outside or travels, he requires short-term internet packages.

His preference has been for one- or two-hour packages or sometimes three-day packages, as they have been the most cost-effective options for his needs. But Kabir and thousands of others like him find themselves in a quandary over the government’s recent decision to limit the number of available packages to 40 out of the existing 95.

The reduction in package choices has left many users, such as Robi customer Fahad Sarkar, worried about the cost and potential waste of data.

Sarkar said: “I have Wi-Fi at home and used to purchase 3-day internet packages to check texts and emails when I’m out. Now, if I opt for a 7-day internet package, it costs significantly more, and I don’t need that much data.”

He urged the government to reconsider its decision and ensure customer-friendly service.

Another customer, Akbar Hussain, raised concerns about the imposed time limits on internet packages, particularly when open-source networks are becoming more accessible worldwide.

“Since customers pay for internet services, they should have the freedom to use them as they see fit. Imposing time limits feels like a deceptive practice that needs to be stopped,” Hussain argued

While some customers are critical of the government’s decision, others welcome it. They seek assurances that mobile companies will not deduct unused portions of the packages following the new guidelines. Additionally, they believe that the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) will ensure affordable internet access for marginalized and common people.

BTRC has directed mobile operators to discontinue 3-day and 15-day internet data packages starting from October 15.

The move has triggered mixed reactions from both customers and operators.

BTRC officials defended their decision, citing a recent survey that supposedly indicated customer support for limiting package options. However, mobile operators have raised objections, claiming that the survey contained leading questions that influenced respondents’ answers.

Addressing concerns about potential price increases, BTRC Commissioner Dr Musfiq Mannan Chowdhury assured the public that the new customer-friendly policy would not permit operators to raise prices. Instead, customers may benefit if the duration of internet data packages increases, ensuring that low-income individuals are not adversely affected.

Dr Chowdhury emphasized that the number of internet packages offered by operators would not decrease under the new guidelines. Currently, mobile operators provide a total of 95 different packages. The proposed guidelines aim to simplify the array of packages available to consumers, offering three main categories: regular packages, customer-centric special packages, and research and development packages.

Furthermore, operators will continue to provide special packages tailored for various needs, such as watching specific days, sports events, or content on Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. The duration of these offers will align with the new guidelines, which suggest a standard seven-day period.

Despite BTRC’s claims that their actions prioritize customer benefits, a survey conducted by the regulatory authority revealed a stark contradiction. The survey showed that over 88% of mobile internet subscribers preferred to roll over unused data from one package to another, a service available since March of the previous year. However, the analyzed guidelines limit this facility to a maximum of 50 gigabytes (GB), falling short of customer expectations.

Customers have criticized BTRC’s approach, deeming it as “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

On the other hand, the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB) expressed dissatisfaction with the new data package guidelines. They argue that they have been providing a variety of packages to cater to the diverse demands of the population. Restricting these options could leave a portion of the market underserved.

AMTOB Secretary-General Col. Mohammad Zulfikar (Retd.) pointed out that internet data usage patterns vary significantly among journalists, businesspeople, and low-income individuals. Operators have designed data packages to align with the specific needs of different professions.

AMTOB also criticized BTRC for failing to accurately estimate market demands following the previous year’s internet data package guidelines. Furthermore, approximately 44% to 45% of the population still lacks internet access, which raises concerns about the potential impact of the new guidelines on the industry and government revenue.

Despite the controversy, some industry insiders remain hopeful that BTRC will reconsider the new guidelines and take operator input into account, ultimately fostering growth and development in the telecommunications sector.

Source: Dhaka Tribune.

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