Two Singapore firms show interest in 3rd submarine cable | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 21, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:45 AM, May 21, 2019

Two Singapore firms show interest in 3rd submarine cable

The Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) has received proposals from two Singapore-based companies -- SingTel and SigMar -- to establish connection for the country’s third undersea cable.

The state-owned company is in the process of evaluating the proposals, both from the financial and technical perspectives, as it has already got go-ahead from the policymakers, said BSCCL’s Managing Director Mashiur Rahman.

SingTel offers 5 terabits per second (TBPS) bandwidth by way of the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 6 cable, which runs from Singapore to France. It will cost BSCCL $72 million.

The second proposal promises 12.4 TBPS bandwidth through the Singapore-Myanmar Submarine Cable (SigMar) system; if Bangladesh joins the consortium it can be extended up to the Bay of Bengal.

It will cost $65 million and the BSCCL will need to build about 1,045 kilometres with its own cost.

According to their estimation, SingTel will complete its project by 2023 and SigMar by 2022.

“We have time constraints as according to our estimation the country’s bandwidth requirement will be more than 6 TBPS by 2023 and our current capacity is less than 3 TBPS. So, we need to develop channels to get higher bandwidth before that,” Rahman said.

Bangladesh’s current consumption is about 1.2 TBPS, of which 670 Gigabits per second is supplied by the BSCCL and the rest by India.

According to TeleGeography, Bangladesh’s demand would be 670 Gbps by the end of 2018 but it ended up being 900 Gbps, Rahman said.

TeleGeography is a telecommunications market research and consulting firm.

“So I think the demand will be much higher than the estimation and we need to take preparation for it.”

The BSCCL has placed both the proposals in a recent meeting with the Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed Joy, where it was decided that the proposals would be evaluated within the next two months and a decision would be made.

After getting direction from the higher authority, a committee will be formed within the next few days and they will evaluate the proposals to find the more suitable one, Rahman said.

The SEA-ME-WE 6 has bigger area coverage but its bandwidth capacity will be less. SigMar has the capacity to meet the country’s demand of getting connected with Singapore, he said.

At the same time, the BSCCL has experience of working with the SEA-ME-WE consortium for its first and second cables and some big players are members of this syndicate, which is also a very strong point, Rahman said. “But SigMar has almost no experience of developing undersea cable.”

Bangladesh had connected with the first undersea cable SEA-ME-WE 4 in 2006 and with the second one SEA-ME-WE 5 in 2017.

At the beginning of 2018, the government asked the BSCCL to start its process to establish connection with a third undersea link and the company contacted several consortiums. Another reason for looking for another submarine cable is that the first cable is nearing its 20-year lifespan, said an official of the BSCCL.

The BSCCL had spent about Tk 500 crore for the first cable and earned more than what it spent.

The second cable cost the country Tk 660.64 crore and the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank lent $44 million for the project, which the BSCCL started to pay back from this year. In the early 1990s, Bangladesh had rejected a proposal for free connection with the SEA-ME-WE-3.

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