The government will be installing a third submarine cable to ensure high speed internet in the country in line with the growing demand for data consumption.
The South East Asia–Middle East-Western Europe-6 (SEA-ME-WE-6) Consortium will lay the submarine cable in Bangladesh.
To this end, the government is going to approve a project worth Tk693 crore.
The project will be presented before the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for approval on Tuesday.
The SEA-ME-WE-6 submarine cable from Singapore to France will extend to the Mediterranean Sea through the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Red Sea.
The cable will have core landing stations in Singapore, India, Djibouti, Egypt and France. The Bangladesh branch will stretch to the cable landing station at Cox's Bazar through the Bay of Bengal.
The Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL) has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Submarine Cable Consortium to join the proposed third submarine cable.
Once connected with the proposed SEA-ME-WE-6, BSCCL bandwidth capability will increase. The optical fibre submarine communications system can also be used as an alternative cable.
The Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company has set the target of completing the project work by June 2024.
An amount of Tk392.33 crore will be provided by the government as project cost while the implementing agency BSCCL will pay the remaining Tk300.83 crore on its own.
BSCCL Managing Director Mashiur Rahman said: "With the addition of the new submarine, Bangladesh will get 6 terabyte per second of bandwidth each from Singapore and Egypt."
As a result, internet speed will go up and the launch of 5G services in the country will also be possible, he added.
"Earlier, Bangladesh was getting 2.7 TBPS of bandwidth through two cables."
As the only state-owned company, BSCCL is providing bandwidth services through submarine cable linked to South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-4 (SEA-ME-WE-4) and South East Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-5 (SEA-ME-WE-5). It has landing stations at Cox's Bazar and Kuataka.
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 separate consortia. The lifespan of the first submarine cable is 20 years, which will end in 2025.
As the second submarine cable is 15 years old, the rate of service disruption is higher due to maintenance-related reasons.
The BSCCL also said due to the relatively old technology, the latency of the connection established through this cable is high and the users are less interested in connecting to this cable.
According to submarine cable officials, the analysis of International Terrestrial Cable (ICT) bandwidth usage in the last few years shows that the growth rate of bandwidth usage is about 70% per year.
Since the beginning of 2017, the market share of BSCL's bandwidth sales has begun to increase significantly. Currently, the market share of BSCCL is about 74%.
The BSCCL's analysis further shows that this upward trend in bandwidth usage will continue for the next few years. Besides, the government has plans to launch 5G services in the country by 2021.
In this case, if 5G service is introduced, the demand for bandwidth in the country will also go up further.
According to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC), the number of internet users through mobile phones in November 2019 was 9.95 crore.
The number of mobile internet users in the country has increased mainly due to the launch of 4G mobile services.
Bandwidth usage in Bangladesh is still much lower than that in other countries in Southeast Asia.
According to data from Telegeography-2018, the bandwidth usage of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India in 2017 is 489, 987 and 14,240 Gbps respectively.
According to the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services (BASIS),the country is witnessing an online-based business. As a result, the demand for internet bandwidth is also increasing rapidly.
The association hopes that this will also boost software export from Bangladesh.
In FY2009-10, Bangladesh exported software worth $35.36 million, which increased to $190.94 million in FY2016-17.
BASIS vice-president Mushfiqur Rahman said:"At present, the country's export earnings from software is around $1.0 billion while the government has a vision to increase the software export to $5billion by 2021."
Besides, the government is implementing various projects to connect all government offices at the upazila level to the internet through fiber optic cable networks.
At the same time, the demand for bandwidth in the public sector has risen due to the government's introduction of various online services, including e-filing, e-tendering, e-commerce, e-health, e-agriculture, etc.