Tk 946cr project to beef up rural internet network
The government is going to expand the Internet Protocol (IP) network of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) with an aim to expand broadband network to upazila and union levels.
The development comes as a part of the government's efforts to meet the country's growing data demand.
The Tk 945.90 crore project will also enhance the capacity of the state-owned company, enabling it to install and modernise the IP equipment in each district, upazila and union parishad as well as increase the capacity of its international internet gateways (IIGs) and national internet exchanges (NIXs).
The IP is a set of rules by which data is sent from one computer to another through the internet. Data can travel across networks and arrive at the correct destination through an IP network.
"it's as part of our readiness for introducing 5G internet connection in the country," Rafiqul Matin, managing director of the BTCL, told The Daily Star.
Besides, the project is also aligned with the government's vision to provide high-speed internet in rural areas that matches with the city's ones, he added.
Matin went on to say that the project aims to increase the BTCL's broadband capacity to 100 gigabytes per second (gbps) in upazila levels, 300 gbps in district levels, 400 gbps in divisional levels and over 1,000 gbps in the capital.
Currently, BTCL can provide 10 gbps data in district levels.
However, it increased its highest capacity from 137 gbps in 2019 to 400 gbps now.
It will also set up a standard platform for bd. and Bangla Domain, web hosting, collocation, cache server, virtual machine, storage, cloud computing and so on alongside the purchase of other ancillary electrical equipment.
The project proposal will be placed before the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval tomorrow.
"It's a timely endeavour that will widen the access to the internet," Mustafa Jabbar, post, telecom and information technology minister, told The Daily Star yesterday.
"The pandemic helps us understand the necessity of data and so, it's a crucial project," he added.
As the pandemic led to the introduction of online classes and work from home, many students from rural and poor families faced hardship with distance learning as many of them do not have access to the internet.
Experts fear the digital divide leaves many behind and so, such projects could help many remote people to adapt to changing trends.
Once approved, the wholly government-funded project also aims to cater to the industries that need high-speed data, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and smart device manufacturing.
The project has been included in the relevant ministry's high priority list as an unapproved project without an allocation in the annual development programme (ADP) of FY 2020-21.
The number of broadband internet connections has skyrocketed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic thanks to the inclusion of rural areas amid the ongoing health crisis.
The number of internet connections through broadband jumped 50 per cent year-on-year in November to reach 8.6 million, according to data from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
The number of connections witnessed a leap in March, when Bangladesh reported its first coronavirus infection, adding over 23 lakh new subscribers in one month.
"The main reason for the increase in the number of subscribers is the availability of broadband connections in rural areas," said MA Hakim, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh.
This is due to changes in people's lifestyles during the pandemic, he added.