Bangladesh’s recent ban on social media has already had a negative impact on data use in the market, with Robi Axiata’s network seeing a drop in consumption of around 30%.
The operator noted that its revenue had also dropped by around 3% in the wake of the regulator BTRC banning Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WhatsApp two weeks ago. The ban was in response to social media commentary on the Bangladeshi High Court’s ruling to uphold the death sentence imposed on 2 men convicted of war crimes in 1971, while the country was fighting Pakistan for independence.
Robi CEO Supun Weerasinghe highlighted the detrimental effect of the ban while announcing the firm’s Q3 results, which saw its EBITDA fall to BDT4.83 billion ($61 million) year-on-year, although a growing customer base totalling 28.4 million afforded the operator a 10% revenue increase to BDT13.4 billion.
Meanwhile, Robi’s ARPU fell by 9.5% to BDT142 ($1.80), and despite an increase in smartphone penetration (17% compared to 8% the previous year), data brought in the same percentage of service revenue as in Q1 this year (10%).
With a 22% share of the market, Robi is the number three operator in Bangladesh with 24.8 million connections. Its proposed merger with Bharti Airtel’s Bangaldeshi operation is currently being reviewed by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in a process expected to take as long as a year.
Coupled with Airtel’s 6.8% share, the combined entity would overtake Banglalink – which has a 25% share of the market – to become the second largest player behind market leader Grameenphone (42%).