BANGLADESH: Bangladesh finally logs on to submarine cable
After four years of dilly-dallying, Bangladesh is finally signing on March 27 a submarine cable agreement with 12 other countries that will open a high-speed, low-priced internet and telecommunications gateway to the users from June 2005
The Daily Star
Thursday, March 18, 2004
After four years of dilly-dallying, Bangladesh is finally signing on March 27 a submarine cable agreement with 12 other countries that will open a high-speed, low-priced internet and telecommunications gateway to the users from June 2005.
Bangladesh's entry to the 13-member consortium, SEA-ME-WE-4 in acronym, will slash internet and long-distance telephone call costs and greatly boost browsing speed. The county will have a 10-gigabyte data transfer capacity a second, 68 times more than the current capacity.
The capacity is considered adequate for the next 10 years and the submarine cable has a life of 15 years. State telecoms monopoly Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) and over 100 internet service providers (ISP) between them now have a 150-megabyte data transfer capacity each second.
"The BTTB alone commands 83-megabyte capacity," said a BTTB official, wishing anonymity. The ISPs will no longer have to depend on Singapore-based costly satellite data transfer, as BTTB will offer them with lease facilities.
The consortium -- South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe-4 -- seeks to begin the cable connection from Singapore running through Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, a number of middle eastern countries and will end in France.
The submarine cable link is also said to provide the infrastructure for large-scale software export and scopes for investment to establish IT-enabled value-added service e.g. call centre, tele-medicine, distance education at overseas universities.
The Executive Committee for National Economic Council (Ecnec) at a meeting yesterday approved a fund of Tk 40 crore, which constitutes 10 percent of Bangladesh's mandatory contribution to the consortium for project expenditure to launch the initial works.
The fund is to be disbursed by April 4. All consortium members are required to pay 10 percent of their own expenses by that time.
It will cost Bangladesh Tk 657 crore to implement the project and the government will arrange the fund. Dhaka has sought a $60 million credit from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for the purpose, sources said.
The government conceived a project to have a private submarine cable link with Singapore via Chittagong in the late 1990s with its own fund. The project was originally designed for launch in September 2000, but foreseeable corruption, bureaucratic bottleneck and wrong planning, among other reasons, stalled the project.
The project was also envisaged at a cost of Tk 921 crore, nearly Tk 300 crore more than what Bangladesh has to pay once it ties up with the consortium.
"The idea of implementing the project through a consortium will be cost-effective," said a telecoms ministry official. The consortium will take care of the maintenance at a low cost and Bangladesh will have to make no additional spending to land its cable in the member countries.
BTTB believes government earnings from telecommunications sector will shoot up as it can raise the number of telephone circuits with the consortium members.
The tasks under the project includes construction of cable landing station, a 22,000-kilometre trunk route and 1,200-1,400-km branch route of submarine cable, installation of optical fibre link between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar along the highway, upgrading of the existing Chittagong-Dhaka optical fibre link, installation of optical link between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar over electrical grid line and other installations.
Date Posted: 3/18/2004