Private firms to get undersea cable licences
The government has initiated a move to award licences for submarine cable to the private sector with a view to attracting private investment to the telecommunication industry to support the growth in bandwidth consumption.
"We will initially issue two licences for submarine cable in the private sector," said Mustafa Jabbar, posts and telecommunications minister, recently.
The Bangladesh Telecommuni-cation Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has already updated the Submarine Cable Licencing Guideline to this effect.
The winning firms will build, operate and maintain submarine cable systems and services.
With the roll-out of 3G and 4G services in Bangladesh, bandwidth consumption has significantly increased in the last few years. The trend is expected to continue as more people embraced digital technologies during the coronavirus pandemic to work, communicate, study, and get entertained as they stay most of the time indoors.
Internet users rose 20 per cent year-on-year to 12.37 crore in July, from 10.35 crore last year, data from the BTRC showed.
Of them, one crore customers use broadband internet, up 17.25 per cent from 85.71 lakh in the same month a year ago.
Bangladesh now consumes 2,600 Gbps (Gigabits per second) bandwidth.
Of the volume, 1,800 Gbps comes through the first and second submarine cables, and the rest is imported from India via the International Terrestrial Cable.
The licence acquisition fee will be Tk 10 crore, and the annual licence fee Tk 3 crore. Companies will have to share 3 per cent of their gross revenue with the government.
The performance bank guarantee has been fixed at Tk 5 crore, and the security deposit Tk 1 crore, according to the guideline.
Meanwhile, state-owned Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd (BSCCL) will sign an agreement with the SE-ME-WE-6 (South East Asia–Middle East–Western Europe-6) consortium this month to connect the country with its third subsea cable.
BSCCL plans to launch the third cable by June 2024.
BSCCL Managing Director Mashiur Rahman said the third submarine cable would have an initial capacity of 6,000 Gbps.
The board of the state-run company has approved to draft a construction and maintenance contract with the SMW-6 Consortium for the third submarine cable.
Of the estimated cost of the project of Tk 693 crore, the government will invest Tk 392 crore and BSCCL Tk 300 crore, according to a regulatory filing on the Dhaka Stock Exchange recently.
The landing station of the cable will be set up in Cox's Bazar.
Bangladesh was connected with its first undersea cable, SEA-ME-WE 4, in 2006 and with the second one, SEA-ME-WE 5, in 2017.
The country imports bandwidth from India as it needs network redundancy in case the submarine cables get disconnected.
Network redundancy is a duplicated infrastructure where additional or alternate instances of network devices and connections are installed to ensure an alternate path in case of a failure on the primary service.
The penetration rate of fixed-broadband is about 6 per cent in Bangladesh, and the government has targeted to raise it to 15 per cent by 2021.
Meanwhile, BSCCL has received approval from its board to change the name of the company from Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) to Bangladesh Submarine Cables PLC (BSCPLC), subject to the permission of the authorities, if any.
The use of the PLC abbreviation after the name of a company communicates to investors and to anyone dealing with the company that it is a publicly-traded corporation.