Cyber cafés lose shine as competing modes dominate

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-20
Published : 20 Sep 2016, 21:49:28

Cyber cafés lose shine as competing modes dominate

Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan

Cyber cafes meant to provide internet services for the urbanites are passing through hard times as other convenient modes of web and digital access have cut into their business.

Majority of cyber café owners have seen their revenue decline by almost half in recent years, industry insiders say, as a big chunk of their old customer base in the capital is switching to mobile internet and other handy mediums.

While their market within the capital has been saturated, cyber cafes are failing to expand to the suburban areas as hundreds of them are yet to get required licence from the telecom regulator.

According to sources at the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission, there are around 330 licenced cyber cafes in the country, about 240 such shops are still in the queue for getting licencee from the government.

"We have already sent 190 of such applications to the Post and Telecommunication Division for approval, while 50 of them are still pending with the commission", said M A Taleb Hossain, Director of Licencing at BTRC.

Industry insiders said that most of these cyber café applicants are from the suburban region, where there is still an untapped market.

"Market for cyber cafes is shrinking within the capital, and the next wave of growth for us would come from the suburban areas", S. M. Zulfiquer Haider, president of Cyber Café Owners Association.

"Until and unless the government expedites the process of licencing, it will be difficult for us to harness the suburban market", said.

Haider said that the availability of 3G internet through the mobile devices as well as WiFi is eating into the market of cyber café owners in the capital.

"On average, a cyber café does not earn more than Tk 500-Tk 700 a day right now, which is almost half of what it used to be a few years ago", he added.

Due to the lack of profitability, a good number of cyber cafes have closed down their operation in the capital in recent times.  

Locals said while there were as many as 20 cyber cafes in the Mohammadpur area of the capital five years ago, there are no more than eight cyber cafes in the same area today.

"Five years ago, I used to earn as much as Tk. 150,000 as revenue from my cyber café each month. But now, my revenue has dropped to around Tk. 60,000", said an owner of a cyber café in Dhaka.

Industry insiders also identified the high price of bandwidth as a major barrier to spreading internet usage in the suburban areas.

"The price of bandwidth is eight to ten times higher in the suburban areas than in Dhaka", Haider said.

Cyber café owners also said that the government should allow a few more Nationwide Telecommun-ication Transmission Network (NTTN) service providers to create more competition in the sector and to rationalise the bandwidth price.

Currently, two companies, such as Summit Communications and Fiber@Home are offering NTTN services in the country.

"Cyber cafes also need to change their business model to offer a wider variety of digital services like printing, scanning, and photocopying to stay competitive in the market", the association chief said.

"With this change in model, we can expect a rebound in our business within a year", he added.              
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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