Mobile operators were yesterday asked to bring back their discontinued three-day data packages but with seven-day validity by November 10, in a development that can be viewed as course correction by the telecom regulator.
On September 3, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission ordered the mobile operators to discontinue the popular three-day data packs along with the 15-day ones from October 15, a move that was met with much criticism from consumers and stakeholders.
"All the packages that were available in the market with three days' validity will have to be offered with seven-day validity while keeping the price and data volume unchanged," reads the BTRC's directive.
Previously, the three-day data packs were the most subscribed as those were the cheapest in terms of cost per megabyte.
For instance, a 1 GB data pack with a three-day validity costs less than a seven-day pack with the same data volume.
With the withdrawal of the three-day packs from October 15, mobile internet users have to spend more on per MB, a development that did not go down well with them, more so at a time of cost of living crisis.
Subsequently, the mobile operators were summoned to a meeting on Sunday by the telecom ministry and the telecom regulator on Sunday.
At the meeting, Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar told the mobile operators that the directive would continue until the election.
Asked if the instruction is intended to earn goodwill among the electoral ahead of the polls, Jabbar earlier said: "Election is another issue because we don't want our young generation to be discouraged from using data during this time. It is also our aim."
It is unprecedented for any government to interfere in data pricing due to elections, said a top executive of a mobile operator on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly on the issue.
The mobile operators cannot roll out any package without the approval of the BTRC, said another telco executive wishing not to be named. The existing seven-day data packs were also approved by the regulator.
"Bringing changes to approved packages is unprecedented."
The overall data tariffs can be brought down with favorable tax rates.
"We hope the regulator will consider bringing down taxes for the interest of consumers," he added.