Bangladesh has fared badly in mobile data speed, ranking below all South Asian nations except for Afghanistan, at a quality listing of global mobile and broadband internet networks.
Bangladesh ranked 133rd out of 138 countries on Ookla's Speedtest Global Index for mobile internet speeds with 10.76 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads in the month of September, considerably lower than the global average of 35.26 Mbps.
Bangladesh's average mobile upload speed stood at 6.96 Mbps and latency was 39 milliseconds (ms). The global averages are 11.22 Mbps and 42 ms. The Maldives topped the chart among South Asian nations, ranking 57th with a download speed of 35.70 Mbps, a little over the global average.
Sri Lanka came 102nd with 19.95 Mbps, Pakistan 116th with 17.13 Mbps, Nepal 117th with 17.12 Mbps, India 131st with 12.07 Mbps and Afghanistan 138th with 7.26 Mbps.
This index category did not include Bhutan.
In fixed line broadband internet speeds, Bangladesh fared better, ranking 98th out of 175 nations with a download speed of 29.85 Mbps, upload speed of 45.74 Mbps and latency of 21 ms. This is still far behind the global average download speed of 85.73 Mbps.
Among the South Asia peer nations, Bangladesh came after India (70th, 46.47 Mbps) and Sri Lanka (94th, 31.42 Mbps).
However, it was ahead of Nepal (113th, 22.36 Mbps), the Maldives (117th, 21.56 Mbps), Bhutan (126th, 19.09 Mbps), Afghanistan (157th, 10.31 Mbps) and Pakistan (159th with 10.10 Mbps)
"The mobile download speed shown in the ranking is better than the benchmark of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC)," said an official of a telecom operator.
The BTRC set 7 Mbps internet download speed for 4G service.
"However, spectrum allocation, which is one of the lowest in the world in a country where there are over 16 crore mobile subscribers, is one of the main reasons for the poor internet service," he said.
Optical fibres of Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network are also not up to the mark and that is another reason for low data transmission, he added.
As coronavirus pushes everything online, internet use rose dramatically, taking a toll on the overall internet speed.
"During the pandemic, suddenly use of the mobile internet increased manifold which might have impacted the service," said Brig Gen SM Farhad (retd), secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB).
"However, almost 11 Mbps speed can be considered as good speed for 4G service. Actually, the operators are providing the service despite a number of unresolved issues, including shortage of spectrum, fragmentation of licences, etc.," he said.
"We did not see a single mobile tower installation for almost two years, so network expansion has been stagnant. Proper policy regulation and business friendly environment can improve the situation," he added.
Contacted yesterday evening, BTRC Chairman Md Jahurul Haque said he was yet to see the index.
On the telecom operators' claim that inadequate spectrum allocation is one of the reasons behind the country's low-speed internet, he said the BTRC sets its policy with the consultation of all stakeholders.
The number of internet subscribers rose 8.3 per cent to an all-time high of 10.82 crore at the end of August whereas it was 9.99 crore in February. The number of mobile phone subscribers stood at 16.60 crore in August, close to February's level of 16.61 crore.