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Grameenphone Plans to Expand The Rural Boundaries

BTRC Banned Sale of Grameenphone SIM Cards For Poor Service
Photo Courtesy: Grameenphone's Facebook Page

The article Partner in Digitalization 1997 – 2022 portrays what led to Grameenphone’s current success in the rural development of Bangladesh, making it a top telecommunication choice for rural mobile users in Bangladesh. An indispensable part of Grameenphone’s victory lies in its contribution to Bangladesh’s rural improvement. The article is about Grameenphone Plans to Expand The Rural Boundaries.

Since the country’s independence, accessing a telephone was believed to be a matter of privilege. Back then, telecommunication access in such areas was considered unthinkable. Nowadays, many rural citizens use Grameenphone for day-to-day activities, including managing successful rural business ventures. In addition, the nationwide coverage expansion meant no communication barrier between urban and rural markets, opening new opportunities for rural businesses to flourish. One strategy that particularly helped rural growth was flattening national call charges. 

In 1999, Grameenphone’s prepaid billing system was for low-income citizens to get the benefits of instant telecommunication. Rural workers living in the cities could now call their families anytime, opening accessibility of services for Bangladeshis. Charging small denominators in scratch cards also helped bridge the financial gap among daily mobile phone users. Being connected with the city life via a handset also meant new career opportunities for rural citizens aspiring to settle in the cities. The garment industry, in particular, saw a significant increase in female workers arriving in Dhaka when Grameenphone expanded rural network coverage. 

Regarding business opportunities, phone operator shops were set up in villages where rural people could call their family members at a low fee. These rural phone users could also be contacted by emigrated workers wishing to call back home that did not own a mobile phone. A study by the Canadian International Development Agency in 2000 stated that a call from a remote areas to Dhaka ranged from 2.64% to 9.8% of a regular consumer’s monthly household income. Contrarily, a trip to the capital would cost two to eight times that amount.  Therefore, rural citizens could save up to Tk. 490 for a phone call instead of journeying to the city. The study also indicated that operators running these phone booths earned 24% to 40% of their average household income, which makes such jobs lucrative and economically viable. 

Aside from providing solar-powered charging benefits and pole-mounted external antennas to enhance the network, Grameenphone also confirmed that the rural users were sufficiently trained in using mobile handsets. Mr. Abu Saeed Khan’s report defined that when GSM mobile phones were launched in rural Bangladesh for the first time, it was relatively easy to teach rural citizens the English numeric keypad of mobile phones. Primary education in modern technology opened the path for sustainable supply chain management that further connected the urban side of Bangladesh to the rural, thus bridging a previously complex void by the power of interconnected telecommunication. 

It is noticeable that Grameenphone’s contribution to the development of rural Bangladesh left a long-standing positive effect on Bangladesh’s financial and technological improvements. With further extension of rural network coverage and easier access to modern technology, rural citizens are steadily moving towards a self-sustaining, thriving economy.

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