As a Canadian I’m both surprised and sad to report that Bangladesh beats Canada when it comes to cellphone service. I’m writing now from a rural village in Bangladesh (called Madhupur). There is no electricity, no running water, and the diesel generator that was powering a ceiling fan and light bulb died earlier this night. Bangladesh is still a third world country afterall. But, despite all this, I am still able to check my mail, see what’s going on at Digg, and post to this blog.
Bangladesh is one of the few countries in the world that can guarantee each one of its residents can get a cellphone signal – no matter where they are in the country. With a population of over 150 million (over four times Canada’s population) that’s pretty impressive. There are populated parts in the North in Canada that most cellphone service providers don’t bother putting up towers for. Not only can Bangladeshis send and receive calls from anywhere in the country – they can also surf the web on either an EDGE or GPRS network. Part of this has to do with free market competition in Bangladesh and corporate collusion in Canada.
In Bangladesh, there are over 6 nation-wide independently owned cellphone companies competing for your business. In Canada, the cellphone market is collectively owned by 3 national companies. Unlike, Bangladesh, the Canadian barrier for competitors to enter is high as the cellphone industry is regulated by an organization known as the CRTC (kind of like the FCC in America) which limits who can enter the market. This has allowed Canadian cellphone service providers to use collusive business practices to artificially raise the cost to consumers and allow them to be picky about where they will provide cell coverage.
For example, in Bangladesh, I was able to take my cellphone (which I signed up for in Dhaka) and take it four hours out of town. I can make and receive calls without any roaming or long distance fees from anywhere to anywhere in the country. But, my brother in Canada cannot take a Hamilton cellphone to Ottawa without incurring roaming and long distance fees. In fact, Canada, unlike Bangladesh, does not even offer an unlimited flat-rate EDGE/GPRS internet service. The gigabytes of data that I have used over the EDGE network here in Bangladesh has cost me only $20 a month. I am not the only one to point out that Canada’s cellphone service is worse than the Third World’s offerings.
The simple fact is – if I was doing the same project in Canada – cellphone service costs alone would have made this project impossible.