Second Submarine Cable: Disruption to inland link delays launch
Bangladesh is being deprived of the benefits of its second undersea cable connection, established at a cost of Tk 660 crore, because of the authority's failure to establish an uninterrupted inland link.
The country got connected to the submarine cable system called South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe 5 (SEA-ME-WE 5) at the landing station in Kuakata on February 21.
The government declared its target to inaugurate the connection by mid-March. But the link between the landing station and the capital could not be set up within the stipulated time.
Another programme was scheduled for the launch of the cable operation this month, but it has been cancelled because of the disruption to the inland link.
A 19-member consortium of 16 nations built the cable across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Its project launch celebration was held in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 16 and all except Bangladesh have started using it commercially.
Initially, the longevity of the cable was fixed at 20 years, which may be increased to 25 years by optimum maintenance.
There are immense benefits of this connection, which marks a global communications milestone, according to the industry insiders. Using it, the country will get an additional 1,500 Gigabits per second (Gbps) bandwidth.
Bangladesh now uses 180 Gbps bandwidth from its first submarine cable system, SEA-ME-WE-4, set up in 2006. Another 260 Gbps is imported from India.
Internet business entities say they are eagerly waiting to use the second submarine cable as it will hopefully lead to cut in bandwidth import that costs millions of dollar every month.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was supposed to inaugurate the Kuakata landing station through video conferencing from her official residence Gono Bhaban on July 31.
But on Tuesday, the inland link was down for 12 hours, forcing the authority to cancel the opening ceremony, said a top official of the telecom division.
Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL), the state-owned company which set up the inland line, also acknowledged the disruption.
“On Tuesday, some of the BTCL lines were disrupted or cut simultaneously in different places of the country,” said Mir Mohammed Morshed, director, public relations and printing of BTCL.
But the company would not explain further.
BTCL officials claim their inland line is ready since March and it is “being used for different purposes” in telecommunication sector.
Sources say the process to establish the line began three years back. Recently, the company extended the project tenure up to September as it could not complete the work.
On March 2, during a visit to the landing station, State Minister for Telecom Tarana Halim told journalists that commercial operations of the cable would begin in the first half of that month.
After that she held meetings with the officials concerned but foolproof connectivity between the landing station and Dhaka could not be ensured.
This correspondent called Tarana yesterday several times but she did not respond. Her public relations team also could not be reached.
However, a top ministry official called back and requesting anonymity said the prime minister's programme might have been cancelled because of ongoing floods and heavy rains.
Contacted, the cable's owner, Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited, which is also a public company, said they are fully prepared on their part and can launch the service if they get the inland link ready.
“We have planned to transmit 200 Gbps bandwidth initially and when it will be available, importing bandwidth from India will be automatically stopped,” said Monwar Hossain, managing director of BSCCL.
BSCCL is planning to reduce the bandwidth price by 20 percent after the commercial launch of the second cable connection, he said, adding that end users will ultimately get internet at cheaper prices.
Imdadul Haque, general secretary of Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), said definitely the quality of this connection will be better than India's and the whole industry is waiting for it.
“If we get services from the second cable at competitive prices, we will not use imported bandwidth.”
To bear the expenses for the second submarine cable, BSCCL borrowed $44 million from the Islamic Development Bank and its instalments of the repayment will begin from this October.
“After getting connected to the second cable, our earnings will rise much more and that will help us repay the loan,” said another top official of the company.