Bangladesh is visited by an approximately half a million tourists every year. The main problem they face when they come to visit is getting access to cell phone pacakages, which until now had been a major problem. Because unlike some countries in the Asian region that draw in large numbers of tourists from within and outside, there was no provision to sell mobile SIM cards to foreign visitors arriving in Bangladesh. All that is apparently set to change since the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has reportedly finalised the guidelines in this matter. The various Telecom companies have been given the green signal to launch their products catering especially to this group of people which brings in much-needed foreign exchange.
If one looks at the situation in Thailand, a country which is visited by millions of tourists every year, the idea of limited-time SIMs has been around for more than a decade. There is no hassle for these inbound passengers to get a SIM either at the airport, or from designated points outside the airport. The means of verification is their passports and it takes very little time to activate the service. Little paperwork, no hassle is the name of the game here. Although Bangladesh is late coming to the realisation, the fact that BTRC has finally come round to this thinking is a piece of positive news.
Although BTRC intends to make use of biometric registration for the purposes of security, it should be noted that these machines need to be made fully operational (at airports or other ports of entry) before the companies launch their products. The last thing one needs is a botched launching. It is nice to see that the operators are in discussion with the regulator on the various durations these SIMS will be operational. But given that these SIMS are destined for tourists, promotional rates need to be given that make it attractive to tourists. They are after all, valued guests to Bangladesh who inject much-needed foreign exchange into our economy.
While the experience of getting a new SIM with limited duration varies from country to country in the South Asian region, Bangladesh needs to take lessons from what is happening in South-East Asia. Security concerns relating to terrorism and crime exist in those countries too. But with the availability of electronic tools to security agencies of the country, these issues can be tackled. The focus for launching such mobile packages is to give inbound tourists the ease of communication over voice and data. They are, after all, here to visit the sights and sounds that Bangladesh represents. Their experience in the country will be much more rewarding if they can spread their experiences over the various modes of the media like Facebook, instagram, etc. in real time.