Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Limited – the lone firm that transmits electricity throughout the country – will enter the internet bandwidth supply business.
The public limited company has also undertaken a joint project with the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), a state-run bandwidth supply agency.
Golam Kibria, managing director of the Power Grid Company, told The Business Standard, "We have undertaken a pilot project to supply bandwidth. Once the project has been implemented, the company's earnings will increase."
A high official of the BSCCL said the company does not have the Nationwide Telecommunication Transmission Network (NTTN) licence required to supply bandwidth to internet service providers.
"The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Limited (PGCBL) has this licence as well as a countrywide optical fibre network," he said. "It will be possible to supply bandwidth throughout the country using PGCBL's network."
Both state-run companies are listed on the share market.
Power Grid Company's bandwidth-supplying capacity
The public limited company has connected an optical ground wire to the power transmission network – in order to transfer data from the National Load Dispatch Centre to different grid sub-stations and power plants.
It also maintains round-the-clock communication for uninterrupted power transmission and supply throughout the country.
The state-run national power transmission agency has buried the optical fibre cables in the ground wires to protect transmission lines from igniting.
What began as an experimental use of optical ground wires to replace old-fashioned ground wires for transmission lines, in 1996, is now the norm – as the wires are being used for almost all transmission lines.
Till June 2007, a total of 2,200 kilometres of optical ground wires were set up as PGCBL's transmission lines. The amount stood at 6,000 kilometres by the end of 2019.
With this, a majority of districts were included in the company's optical fibre network. It has also been using optical fibre, commercially, in the information and technology sector.
Already, the PGCBL has leased out 450 kilometres of optical fibre to telecom operators –Grameenphone, Bangla Link and Robi – and 3,284 kilometres to the University Grants Commission.
It has also leased out 3,000 kilometres of optical fibre to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Company Limited, Fiber@Home Limited and Summit Communications Limited.
Now the process is ongoing to lease optical fibre to state-owned telecom operator Teletalk Bangladesh Limited.
The Power Grid Company received the NTTN licence from the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) in 2014.
It boosted the prospect of the company's telecommunications business – especially the country's bandwidth supply business. To expand the business, the company set up an office for optical ground wires in 2017.
Continuing in that vein, the company undertook a pilot project to supply bandwidth throughout the country. Once the project is implemented, the high-speed data would be supplied, uninterrupted – to telecom operators, international internet gateway service providers and internet service providers – at lower than the market price.
Alongside the PGCBL, Summit Corporation, Fiber@Home, BTCL and Bangladesh Railway have their own optical fibre networks.
Besides Teletalk, other mobile operators have their own optical fibre networks.
The government plans to introduce 5G services in the country between 2021 and 2023. The implementation of 5G will create massive demand for bandwidth in the near future.
The Bangladesh Submarine Cable has also taken up initiatives to connect the country to the third submarine cable. Continuous technological developments are ongoing to transport more bandwidth over an optic fibre pair and thus the bandwidth-carrying capacity of the submarine optic fibre cable is gradually increasing.
Use of internet
The number of internet users in the country is increasing every year. In the last five years till 2019, the number of netizens increased by 128 percent to 9.81 crore. Of them, 57.39 lakh use broadband internet. In the last five years, the number of broadband users rose by 365 percent.
In this context, after the setting up the first and the second submarine cables the bandwidth supply in the country increased by 11,150 percent to become 900 gigabyte per second in 10 years between 2009 and 2019.
Apart from the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company, Summit Corporation and five more organisations have been supplying bandwidth.
The internet price has been set at maximum Tk400 megabits per second (Mbps) and minimum Tk180 Mbps, a BTCL official said citing the statement.
The government gradually reduced the internet price at different times. The maximum price was set at Tk960 Mbps and minimum at Tk360 Mbps in 2015.
Power Grid's business on the rise
The Power Grid Company's earnings, from leasing out optical fibre cables, has increased by 318 percent in the last 10 years. It was Tk31.28 crore in fiscal year 2018-19.
During the period, the earnings from power transmission increased by 198 percent to Tk1,747 crore.
In fiscal year 2018-19, the company made a net profit of Tk384 crore and earnings per share were Tk8.33. During the period, it gave its shareholders a 20 percent cash dividend.
The company's officials said in the last 10 years, the number of power transmission lines has increased. In the next few years, the Power Grid Company plans to undertake a number of projects to set up transmission lines – and increase its profits.