Bangladesh has signed an agreement with the South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-6 (SEA-ME-WE-6) Consortium for the construction and maintenance of the country's third submarine cable.
Md Afzal Hossain, secretary of the Posts and Telecommunications Division and chairman of the Board of Directors of Bangladesh Submarine Company Limited (BSCCL), signed the agreement at InterContinental Dhaka on Thursday.
The member organisations of the consortium will sign a similar agreement on behalf of their countries and send it to the temporary headquarters of the consortium in Singapore by 30 September this year.
The 15 companies participating in the SEA-ME-WE 6 consortium include Singtel (Singapore), BSCCL (Bangladesh), Telekom (Malaysia), SLT (Sri Lanka), Dhiraagu (the Maldives), Ni2i (India), TWA (Pakistan), Djibouti Telecom (Djibouti), Mobilink (Saudi Arabia), China Mobile International, China Telecom Global Limited China, China Unicom, Microsoft (United States), Telecom Egypt, and Orange (France).
Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar, the chief guest at the programme, said the third submarine cable will be launched by 2024.
"SEA-ME-WE 6 will make an unimaginable contribution to establishing uninterrupted connectivity with the digital world by meeting the growing demand for digital connectivity in the coming days," said the minister.
Referring to the submarine cable as one of the most essential telecommunications infrastructure in the country, Mustafa Jabbar said, "The then government refused the proposal of setting up the submarine cable connection to Bangladesh for free in 1992, leaving Bangladesh behind in the world of information technology for 14 years."
He said only 8 Gbps Internet was used in the country in 2008 and there were only seven lakh users. But currently 11 crore people in the country are using the Internet and 2,700 Gbps bandwidth is being used. The third submarine cable connection for Bangladesh is another historic achievement for the country.
Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Chairman Shyam Sunder Sikder and SEA-ME-WE 6 Project Director Kamal Ahmed spoke at the programme presided over by BSCCL Managing Director Mashiur Rahman.
BSCCL Managing Director Mashiur Rahman said, "Today, more than 2,700 Gbps international bandwidth is being used in the country, of which the BSCCL alone is providing about 1,650 Gbps bandwidth."
By 2024, the country will need more than 6,000 Gbps of international bandwidth, he said.
Work on the implementation of the third submarine cable started in 2019. Three proposals for laying submarine cables were initially shortlisted and approved at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council's meeting in December 2020.
But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the selection of suppliers by the consortium was delayed. As a result, the consortium's proposed activities, scheduled to be launched by December 2020, were also postponed.
Bangladesh's first submarine cable was launched in 2006 and the second in the first quarter of 2017.
Besides supplying bandwidth to the country, the BSCCL is also exporting bandwidth to neighbouring countries. The BSCCL has signed a new agreement with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, a state-owned company in India, to export 10 Gbps bandwidth.