BSCCL currently has a bandwidth storage capacity of 2,800 Gbps, thanks to the two submarine cables. But both of them are nearing the end of their shelf life
From its humble beginning in 2008 with 7.5 gigabits per second (Gbps) bandwidth, the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company (BSCCL) has come a long way, as the company can now deliver up to 1,450 Gbps -- a whopping 1,400 per cent increase in 12 years.
The national bandwidth provider plans to increase that capacity to 1,800 Gbps soon, said a BSCCL official.
“The growth of BSCCL from 2016 has been 70 per cent. The bandwidth sales also increased 1,400 per cent. It is our success that we did not incur any losses from the beginning,” said Mashiur Rahman, managing director of BSCCL.
There are 36 international internet gateway (IIG) operators, of which 27 are active.
About 2,200 internet service providers (ISPs) take bandwidth from these IIG operators.
As ISPs have gone to the union level, people are using the internet with the introduction of 3G and 4G internet in the country, putting an even greater demand for internet bandwidth.
BSCCL currently has a bandwidth storage capacity of 2,800 Gbps, thanks to the two submarine cables -- the SEA-ME-WE-4 and the SEA-ME-WE-5.
However, both of them are nearing the end of their shelf life. That is why the government on December 1 last year approved a Tk 693.2 crore project to set up the country’s third submarine cable to meet the fast-growing demand for connectivity.
The BSCCL will implement the project by June 2024.
The SEA-ME-WE-6 submarine cable from Singapore to France will extend to the Mediterranean Sea through the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.
The cable will have core landing stations in Singapore, India, Djibouti, Egypt and France, while the Bangladesh branch will stretch to the cable landing station at Cox’s Bazar through the Bay of Bengal.
With the installation of the new submarine cable, Bangladesh will get 6 terabytes per second of bandwidth that will boost internet speed and help launch 5G services in the country.
"As we could not cover the demand with the first submarine cable, SEA-ME-WE-4, we added the second submarine cable, the SEA-ME-WE-5. Once 5G comes, the demand for the internet would shoot through the roof, and even we cannot cover the demand of the whole country," Rahman said.
About the bandwidth scarcity by 2022, IIG operators expressed their concern and urged for immediate and alternative channels to meet the crisis, as there is no direction from the government once the existing bandwidth runs out.
They emphasised not to wait until 2024 and to take necessary measures to bring the SEA-ME-WE-6 cable early.
Currently, Bangladesh depends on India for 30-35 per cent of its bandwidth supply. And operators said if no alternative is brought on time, then that dependability may reach 100 per cent, giving a full monopoly to a foreign entity, who can then possibly increase bandwidth price.
"Then we will not be able to do anything about it," they said.
Alternative methods to generate bandwidth must be considered immediately before it is too late, said Imdadul Haque, director of Optimax Communication, an IIG company and general secretary of the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh.
If immediate measures are not taken, the people of Bangladesh will suffer for lack of internet access, he added.
“The bandwidth that we currently have can cover until 2022. But our third submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-6 will come by end of 2024. Our challenge lies on coping without bandwidth in 2023 and 2024,” BSCCL MD Rahman said.
The country’s first submarine cable SEA-ME-WE-4 was launched in 2005 and the second one, SEA-ME-WE-5, was launched in 2017. These two submarine cables are being operated through a separate consortium.
As the first submarine cable is 15 years old, the rate of service disruption is higher due to maintenance-related reasons.