In terms of the number of mobile phone subscribers, Bangladesh ranks 12th globally. Here is the list of top 14 countries based on mobile phone subscribers (www.mobithinking.com):
It seems that Bangladesh is among those attractive countries for mobile operators in terms of sheer customer numbers. However, from an operator’s perspective, that might be questionable.
While this is true that a respectable size of market exists, it is also true that the market has already become highly competitive after deregulation and allowing multiple operators. Bangladesh now has six operators, which has turned the market highly competitive for operators at one end, and very attractive to subscribers (customers) on the other. This trend of increasing competition is actually good for customers because it usually leads to lower prices, attractive offerings and improvement of services. Remember those old days when only one mobile company offered almost a half-kilogram phone with exorbitant rate plans, including paying out from your pocket whenever there was an incoming call? Now-a-days, you will find almost everybody on the street using mobile phones, prices and rate-plans of which have come down to a very affordable level. Where in the world can you find unlimited validity period like Banglalink except in Bangladesh? Where in the world can you find the cheapest ‘friend and family’ deals as offered by Airtel or other competing operators?
A study shows that, Bangladesh is a country where mobile companies have one of the lowest per customer revenue in the Asia-Pacific region. The measurement is called ARPU (average revenue per user). It is the amount of money, on average, that a company brings in for each of its customers per period of time (usually per month). Roughly speaking, the higher the ARPU for a company, the better it is from operators’ perspective. Obviously, the lower the ARPU, the better it is from customers’ perspective. Here is the summary of their findings:
Even though other measures are needed to understand the price-profit scenario, ARPU could be a good starting point. Amid this price pressures, operators are under compelling need to come up with differentiated products like 3G and mobile banking, the trend of which has already started. Hopefully, we will be enjoying low voice rates in coming days, and let the operators continue their pricey 3G services until the competition heats up again in this sector.