Bangladesh is going to be connected with a third submarine cable to meet the rapidly growing demand for internet bandwidth and ensure uninterrupted broadband internet services.
It will need to spend Tk 693 crore to get linked with the third submarine cable. Of the amount, Tk 392 crore will come from government funds and the rest from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL), planning ministry officials told The Daily Star.
The Posts and Telecommunications Division is expected to place the project proposal at the weekly meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) today for approval, they said.
The project, aimed at expanding the international telecommunications system in the country, will be implemented by June 2024, the officials mentioned.
Under the project, Bangladesh will be connected with the undersea cable SEA-ME-WE 6 (South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe), an optical fibre submarine communications cable system, officials said.
The country will have to set up 13,275 km core submarine cable network and 1,850 km branch submarine cable network.
Bangladesh got connected with its first undersea cable, SEA-ME-WE 4, in 2006 and with the second one, SEA-ME-WE 5, in 2017.
In the early 1990s, Bangladesh had rejected a proposal for free connection with the SEA-ME-WE 3.
The country now has a bandwidth capacity of 2,600 Gbps from two submarine cables. The third undersea cable will add another 7,200 Gbps, said BSCCL insiders.
At the beginning of 2018, the government had asked the state-run BSCCL to take steps to get connected with the third undersea link.
BSCCL officials said once the country is connected with the third cable, it will boost the company's revenue as the country is moving towards digitalisation.
With the roll-out of 3G and 4G services in the country, bandwidth consumption has increased significantly over the last few years and this trend will continue in the coming days.
The country now uses 1,600 Gbps bandwidth, which was 300 Gbps at the end of 2016.
Of the bandwidth, Bangladesh gets 1,200 Gbps from the first and second submarine cables and another 400 Gbps comes from India.
Bangladesh imports bandwidth from India, as it needs network redundancy in case the submarine cables get disconnected.
Seeking anonymity, a BSCCL official said a major reason to look for another submarine cable is that the 20-year lifespan of the first cable is nearing an end.
"It is not possible to expand the capacity of the first undersea cable much and its maintenance cost is also increasing every year."
The BSCCL's revenue rose to Tk 250 crore in fiscal 2019-20 from Tk 103 crore in fiscal 2016-17 on the back of a boost in bandwidth usage through undersea cables, according to its annual report for 2020.
The Posts and Telecommunications Division is also likely to place at today's Ecnec meeting another proposal for extending the project titled "Modernization of Telecommunication Network for Digital Connectivity" by two years.
The three-year project was supposed to be completed by June this year. If it is extended, the cost will increase by Tk 742 crore to Tk 3,315 crore form Tk 2,573 crore.
As per the project proposal, the government has to spend additional Tk 360 crore for establishing Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) in 42 districts to expand broadband internet facilities.
GPON is fibre-based and capable of providing high bandwidth.