The Global System for Mobile Communications Association – commonly referred to as GSMA –has projected in its latest report that 62% of the mobile phone users in Bangladesh will have smartphones by 2025.
Last year, 41% mobile phone users in the country had smartphones, and in the 2020 iteration of their Mobile Economy Asia Pacific report, the GSMA had predicted that the smartphone adoption rate will reach 69% here.
The organisation represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with almost 400 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies.
Commenting on this projection, Telecom and ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar told The Business Standard, "We will surpass this projection, because such predictions do not always apply to Bangladesh.
"We are now producing smartphones in Bangladesh. Eighty-five percent of such products found in the local market are being manufactured here. This allows the people to buy smartphones at much cheaper prices."
He continued, "Brands such as Samsung manufactures their smartphones in Bangladesh, and exports those too. The authors of this particular report may not be aware of such developments.
"Besides, the people of our country can adopt technology at a much higher rate compared to any other nation."
To further strengthen his point, the minister said, "In recent times, the telecom infrastructure has developed significantly in rural areas throughout Bangladesh. So, every union in the country will have broadband internet service and 4G network within this year.
"The GSMA projection is based on old data and they did not take into account the massive infrastructure development and the rising adoptability of Bangladeshi consumers."
The ICT minister added that everyone in Bangladesh will have a smartphone and 4G connection by 2025.
India, Pakistan ahead in smartphone adoption
By the end of 2025, Bangladesh's two neighbouring countries – India and Pakistan – will respectively have 85% and 74% of smartphone users out of their total mobile phone users, which is significantly faster than Bangladesh, the report says.
It added that more than 80% of the mobile phone users in Asia Pacific will have smartphones by 2025, up from the 68% projected in 2020.
Bangladesh stood last in the list of selected 12 key countries in the region, followed by Pakistan. The report projects that these two countries will not reach the 80% benchmark by 2025.
Though the GSMA has slashed its projection for Bangladesh's smartphone adoption rate, it did not change its previous projection of the country's Fifth Generation (5G) network coverage – keeping it at 6% by 2025.
Bangladesh had entered the 4G era in February 2018, but only 27% of its users adopted the high-speed network by 2020. In 2025, 54% will embrace the 4G network, according to the report.
It also mentioned that Bangladesh, Pakistan and Samoa are set to launch 5G in 2023. South Korea was the first country in Asia Pacific to roll out 5G in 2018, followed by Australia, Maldives and New Zealand in 2019.
Guam, Japan, Laos, Northern Mariana Islands, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand rolled out 5G in 2020, while Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia secured it in 2021. Brunei Darussalam, India and Cambodia are set for 5G roll-outs in 2022.
By 2025, over 333 million people across the region will start using mobile internet for the first time.
Bangladesh will add 19 million new mobile internet users between 2021 and 2025, the report says.
With 166 million, India will account for half of new mobile internet users in the region, followed by Pakistan (40 million).
Quoting a 2021 GSMA study, the report says that despite the expansion of mobile coverage, about half of Bangladesh's population remains unconnected to a mobile network – partly owing to mobile taxation.
In 2019, the total tax contribution of the mobile sector – amounting to BDT119 billion ($1.4 billion) – represented about 44% of total sector revenue, it added.