From Friday entertainment to business: the mobile internet outage has slowed down almost everything

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Services, such as ridesharing and food delivery apps, were down due to the internet disruption that lasted all day. Some businesses that survive primarily on mobile internet have experienced losses.

The morning of the weekend was not as usual for many internet users who were suddenly excluded from social networks. The day started with a question: “what happened to mobile internet“?

Many had to change plans as online shopping, transactions and carpooling were disrupted. People who don’t have a home Wi-Fi connection have been banned from WhatsApp or Messenger, two popular business tools.

Bangladesh has more than 125 million internet users, 92% of whom rely on mobile internet, according to data updated by the telecommunications regulator through August.

Broadband internet services in six districts were blocked on Wednesday following attacks on pavilions and temples in Durga Puja by religious fanatics.

Community violence erupted in Cumilla after prompting social media prompts alleging the Quran was dishonored in a temple. Puja sites were also vandalized in Chandpur, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj and Moulvibazar and clashes resulted in casualties.

The outage was extended on Friday due to prayers from Bijoya Doshomi and Jum’a, telecom operator officials said on condition of anonymity.

Those planning to take a ride from app-based services had problems after exiting because drivers from Uber, Pathao and other services could not connect.

People who needed to travel urgently had to take an alternative means of transport. Farhan, a Dhaka resident who uses Uber to take his mother to hospital for kidney dialysis every Friday, said he hired a rickshaw despite the hot weather after failing to get an Uber ride.

Soma, an official at a private organization, abandoned the plan to go out with her children because ridesharing services were disrupted.

App-based ridesharing services have been shut down because they use mobile internet, said Hussain Elius, CEO of Pathao.

The blackout also hampered financial transactions. In the Moghbazar outlet of the Meena Bazar supermarket chain, customers were unable to pay using mobile financial services apps, such as bKash and Nagad. Some customers could not pay by credit card.

A customer, Sumaiya, said she managed to pay bills at a store after two failed attempts.

Banks have alerted their customers by text message to possible disruptions to online services.

Syed Mahbubur Rahman, managing director of Mutual Trust Bank, said customers can get the services online if they use the internet through WiFi connections, but cannot transact on the go.

Mohammad Kamrul, a mobile financial services officer in Banasree, said they face transaction issues as customers have to use USSD codes instead of apps.

Courier services said their QR code-based deliveries were hampered by the outage.

The blackout has shut down all kinds of services that rely on SIM-based mobile broadband internet, said Sumon Ahmed Sabir, chief technology officer at International Internet Gateway or operator IIG Fiber @ Home. They included some point-of-sale or point-of-sale transactions, mainly in city superstores, and vehicle tracking.

Jahangir Alam Shovon, managing director of the Bangladesh E-Commerce Association, said sales in digital markets drop 15-20% during such a one-day blackout and the effects persist the next day.

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