Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) is going to inaugurate its second undersea cable connection from Turkey to Kuakata in the country today, but its back link connectivity from the landing station to the main land is yet to be established.
Parvez M Ashraf, project director of the second submarine cable landing station, said they are ready to launch the cable -- SEA-ME-WE 5 -- as its construction is complete.
Md Monwar Hossain, managing director of BSCCL, who is now in Turkey to attend the management meeting of the consortium, will send data traffic to Bangladesh through this cable and inaugurate it, said Ashraf.
However, internet users in the country will not be able to enjoy connectivity just yet, as the backhaul from Kuakata to Dhaka is not yet ready, which will take at least a few more weeks.
Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow of LIRNEasia, a Colombo-based ICT think tank, said activating a submarine cable without the onshore transmission link is like inaugurating a seaport that does not have a road or rail linkage.
“The launching of SEA-ME-WE 5 in Bangladesh means that hundreds of gigabits of invaluable international bandwidth will stagnate at the Kuakata cable landing station, while the country badly needs it for internal use as well as for export to Bhutan and India,” said Khan, also a former secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh.
State owned Bangladesh Telecommunications Company (BTCL), which is establishing the connectivity from the landing station to Dhaka, has awarded the work order to another state owned company -- Telephone Shilpa Sangstha (TSS) -- in December, depriving the original tender winner.
TSS then engaged a subcontractor -- Indian company Tejas Networks, but this is its first time building this type of a cable. “Right now, we can say that we are establishing the link soon, but we can't mention a timeframe,” said Mir Mohammed Morshed, director of public relation at BTCL.
On the other hand, although BSCCL is preparing to launch the cable today, the SEA-ME-WE 5 consortium already launched it on January 16 in a ceremony in Honolulu, Hawaii. Initially, this cable will provide 200 Gbps of bandwidth, which can ultimately go up to 1,500 Gbps, said Ashraf. The country currently receives 200 Gbps of bandwidth from its first connection -- SEA-ME-WE 4.
At present, India has 19 submarine cable connections, Pakistan has eight and Sri Lanka seven.
Industry insiders are questioning if the belated operations of SEA-ME-WE 5 is inadvertent or deliberate. Currently, two Indian carriers, Tata Telecommunications and Bharti Airtel, supply a huge amount of bandwidth, as an alternative to the supply line of SEA-ME-WE 4, through six international terrestrial cable operators to Bangladesh.
“The delayed operation of SEA-ME-WE 5 equally benefits the two Indian carriers and their Bangladeshi counterparts,” said Khan.
Total bandwidth consumption in the country is around 400 Gbps at present and of it, 280 Gbps is imported from the two Indian companies.
Bangladesh joined the SEA-ME-WE 5 consortium in March 2014, spending Tk 660 crore. Of the total cost, the government has provided Tk 166 crore while BSCCL contributed Tk 142 crore; the remaining money was borrowed from Islamic Development Bank.
It signed the deal to build a state-of-the-art undersea cable, which will span approximately 20,000 kilometres, connecting 17 countries.
The cable has connected Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Djibuti, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Italy, Turkey and France via 19 landing points.
Initially, the lifespan of the cable has been set at 20 years, but it can be extended by five years.
Apart from the BSCCL, the SEA-ME-WE 5 consortium includes China Mobile International Ltd, China Telecommunications Global Ltd, China United Network Communications Group Company Ltd, Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, Orange, Myanmar Post and Telecom, PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia International, Saudi Telecom Company, Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, Sri Lanka Telecom PLC, Telekom Malaysia Berhad, Telecom Italia Sparkle, TOT Public Company Ltd, and Yemen International Telecommunications Co.