To avoid frequent disruption in internet traffic, Bangladesh has decided to establish three-way connectivity, as a back-up for its lone connection via the submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4, sources in the ministry of post and telecommunication (MoPT) said.
Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), the custodian of the submarine cable, has already chalked out a plan to get connected to SEA-ME-WE-3, the longest undersea optical fibre line in the world, through the Myanmar landing station.
BSCCL has also got the nod from Submarine Cable Consortium to channel a secondary line to SEA-ME-WE-5, the latest undersea line in this “connectivity zone”, known as South East Asia-Middle East and Western Europe (SEA-ME-WE). SEA-ME-WE-1 & 2 have been de-commissioned.
On the other hand, six companies -- Novocom Ltd, One Asia HJV, Bd Link Communication Ltd, Mango Teleservices Ltd, Summit Communication Ltd and Fiber@homes Ltd -- got licenses for laying international terrestrial cable (ITC), and will soon start work on land, which will act as a back-up for internet traffic.
Incidentally, Bangladesh has been asked to get connected to SEA-ME-WE-3 cable, free of cost, in 1992. But, the then government chose not to do so, fearing leakage of information. Bangladesh, however, linked to submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4 in 2005, at a cost of USD 35.1 million.
SEA-ME-WE-3 is 39,000-km-long and has 39 landing points. The SEA-ME-WE-4 is 18,800-km-long and has 17 landing points. In 2008, bandwidth use was 7.5 gigabits per second (Gbps), which has now leapfrogged to 22 Gbps now. BSCCl also upgraded its capacity to 160 Gbps in February this year.
BSCCL managing director Monwar Hossain told The Independent that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Myanmar will be signed within next month to get connected to SEA-ME-WE-3 through its Pyapon landing station.
“Cable connectivity situation in Myanmar is almost the same as Bangladesh, because its whole internet traffic depends on its lone cable SEA-ME-WE-3. So, the two countries, in principle, have decided to a make a bilateral arrangement to use each other’s cable as back-up,” he said.
“Bangladesh doesn’t have any scope to get directly connected to SEA-ME-WE-3. So, we plan to lay a 50-km-long fibre cable undersea, directly from our Cox’s Bazaar landing station, to Pyapon in Myanmar,” added Hossain. He said it would cost approximately Tk. 25 crore.
“We also thought of an alternative plan to lay the cable over land, from Cox’s Bazaar to Ukhia, and then cross the border where the authorities of Myanmar would have laid the cable up to Pyapon. It would have reduced the cost, but there are some treacherous terrains in that route and maintaining cable security would have been very tough,” he added.
In December last year, Bangladesh had signed an agreement to join SEA-ME-WE-5, which follows the route of the current SEA-ME-WE 4 cable and will reach Japan via Hong Kong.
Incidentally, Myanmar also signed the agreement and planned to join the SEA-ME-WE-5. Had it been done, the project cost for Bangladesh would have come down to USD 38 million, instead of a stipulated USD 48 million. The project cost would have reduced had Myanmar laid a part of the cable to get connected to SEA-ME-WE-5. “We have discussed the issue with Myanmar. But the latter’s internal financial condition is not favourable to disburse money for laying cables for SEA-ME-WE-5. We will, however, join SEA-ME-WE-5 by 2014,” he said.
On the other hand, six companies, which got licenses to lay the ITC, have received another three months time to start work. They got their license in January 5 and as per the agreement, they should have started work in six months.
Officials with different ITC licensees told The Independent that their work got delayed as they had to complete bilateral agreements with Indian companies, including Bharti Airtel, Tata Indicom, and Reliance Communication, first.
ITC operators will lay the cable inside the country, up to the Indian border at Meherpur, Benapole, Sylhet and Comilla. From there, Indian companies will connect it with international data traffic.