Some of them are reported to be paying the dues in instalments, but most of them are yet to pay up
Most of the international internet gateway (IIG) and internet service providers (ISPs) still owe about Tk 300 crore to the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company (BSCCL).
Some of them are reported to be paying the dues in instalments, but most of them are yet to pay up.
The arrears have kept on piling since the entities received bandwidth from BSCCL. The last date for paying up was December 31 last year.
The BSCCL sent several letters to the operators but failed to realise the dues.
Since the beginning, the IIG operators and ISPs provide 104 different internet services.
Currently with 2,800 gigabits per second (Gbps) bandwidth storage capacity, Bangladesh's two submarine cables, the SEA-ME-WE-4 and the SEA-ME-WE-5, facilitates bandwidth via the BSCCL to the IIG operators and ISPs.
A total of 36 out of 39 listed IIG companies provide bandwidth to the ISPs.
The BSCCL can now deliver up to 1,450 Gbps in bandwidth out of a capacity of 2,800 Gbps.
Having a 70 per cent growth since 2016, the company has steered away from losses, but have failed to realise its arrears.
According to BSCCL data, as of June 30 last year, the total debt was Tk 292.27 crore, which increased to Tk 304.85 crore in December.
Although some IIG operators repaid their dues, the BSCCL website did not update the arrear figures, said company sources.
“We filed cases against some of the companies to collect these dues. Some of them are paying little, but we are maintaining contact with all of them to realise the debts,” said Mashiur Rahman, managing director of BSCCL.
However, he declined to name the defaulting companies.
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Company (BTCL) is said to owe the highest amount: a staggering Tk 58 crore in value-added tax, according to sources at the finance department of BSCCL.
But the annual report of fiscal 2019-20 of BSCCL said the due amount was Tk 89 crore.
“We have already paid one-third our dues,” said Md Rafiqul Matin, managing director of BTCL.
The state-run company will pay the remaining Tk 37 crore by March 31.
The other defaulting companies include Indian BSNL, who owe Tk 10 crore, state-run Teletalk Tk 1.18 crore, Aamra Technologies Tk 37.53 crore and [email protected] Global Tk 16 crore.
However, IIG operators shifted the blame on the ISPs, who also did not clear their bills of Tk 350 crore. But the supporting data of this claim could not be shown.
"We try to repay through monthly instalments, but the ISPs are not paying us on time. Most of them deferred payment by 2-3 months," said Sumon Ahmed Sabir, chief technology officer of [email protected] Global.
Summit Communications also owes Tk 38 crore to BSCCL. Its managing director could not be reached for comment.
Imdadul Haque, director of Optimax Communication, an IIG operator and general secretary of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), said that they did not have any dues; rather, the ISPs owed them a hefty amount.
But he declined to reveal the amount.
Meanwhile, the BSCCL is yet to receive Tk 10 crore from the Indian BSNL, which has not been paying for the last two years.
“As it is a complex process to send money from India, there had been several rescheduling at their behest. They promised to clear dues by September last year but still did not pay up. Now they pledged repayment by February 15. As they were defaulting, we shut off their bandwidth circuit, which will be reopened after all dues are cleared," said the BSCCL chief Rahman.
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.
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 government will be installing a third submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-6 by 2024 to ensure high-speed internet in the country in line with the growing demand for data consumption.