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More on the Bangladesh undersea cable

The Daily Star Web Edition Vol. 5 Num 704
Submarine Cable:
BTTB given unlawful control over network
Other ISPs will be discriminated against

Abu Saeed Khan

The government violated the law by allowing the state-run telecoms monopoly to own and operate the country’s only submarine cable network. Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) built the SEA-ME-WE4 submarine cable and its associated infrastructure from the earnings of its other telecoms ventures and the law explicitly prohibits such practices of subsidisation.

Subsection C of Section 49 of the telecoms law says, “If an operator provides more than one service, but there exists competition in the market in providing one of such services and no competition in case of another service provided by him, then subsidy from the earnings of the service which is subject to competition shall not be allowed for the other service which is not subject to competition.”

BTTB built the cable’s landing station in Cox’s Bazar and from there it deployed an optical fibre link up to Chittagong from the earnings of its fixed telephony, Internet and data connectivity services. This is what the law explicitly prohibits because the private sector is also offering all these three categories of services through competition.

Therefore, the government cannot build the submarine cable from the earnings of the services ‘which are subject to competition’ and it must take away the submarine cable’s control from BTTB’s grip as soon as possible to comply with the legal provision and create a level playing field to foster the growth of telecoms and ICT sectors, sources said.

Otherwise, the government remains vulnerable to legal actions for such a gross non-compliance with the law, which might even temporarily stall the cable’s commercial operations causing a great deal of trouble for the undersea cable users of Bangladesh.

BTTB’s undisputed control over the SEA-ME-WE4 provides free bandwidth to its state-owned Internet service. It allows BTTB to maintain an artificially lower tariff for its Internet services while private Internet service providers (ISPs) have to buy the same bandwidth, which compels them to impose higher tariff on their services, putting them in disadvantage in competition with BTTB.

10 Comments to More on the Bangladesh undersea cable

  1. goswami's Gravatar goswami
    May 31, 2006 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    ISPs sign up for new Dhaka cable services

    According to the Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB), the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) has already received BDT65 million (USD1 million) from eleven Dhaka-based ISPs for cable bandwidth on the newly inaugurated SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine link. The new system has brought charges down: previously ISPs had to pay around USD3,000 per month to rent 1Mbps while the charge is now around USD1,000.

    From Telegeography

  2. Abu Saeed Khan's Gravatar Abu Saeed Khan
    June 1, 2006 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    It may appear to be an exciting news for the “Dhaka-based” ISPs. Bangladesh is, however, much larger than Dhaka. Moreover the Capital-based ISPs’ story is not that rosy. Please visit: http://www.bangladeshobserveronline.com/new/2006/05/30/national.htm

    The government has artificially reduced the bandwidth price ahead of the general election in January 2007. The government has, however, done absolutely nothing to build an average quality of last mile, which delivers the submarine cable’s bounty at the customers’ doorsteps.

    SEA-ME-WE4 is the country’s very first submarine cable. Bangladesh naturally has to wait for the wet segment’s redundancy until another cable lands at her coast. But BTTB (the government) has wasted four invaluable years (Since May 2002) to make a simple SDH ring in its nationwide transmission backbone!

    Therefore, forget about the cable-cut in the wet segment of SEA-ME-WE4, BTTB’s own nationwide point-to-point transmission link remains highly vulnerable to prolonged (couple of days or even a week) disruption.

    BTTB’s such apathy is attributed to being a government department rather than a service provider. That’s why it is imperative to salvage the country’s only cable landing station from BTTB’s inept ownership.

    It is lot more than a legal issue. This is a matter of achieving economic sustainability through competition.

  3. ershadulhoque's Gravatar ershadulhoque
    June 3, 2006 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    please send me data for BTTB’s currents action to develop infrastructure for submarine cable. before 12 AM 04/06/06.

    ershadu hoque
    4th year , cse, dhaka university.

  4. Abu Saeed Khan's Gravatar Abu Saeed Khan
    June 4, 2006 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Ershad, I’ve failed to understand the significance of your deadline. Nevertheless, please contact BTTB’s General Manager (Transmission) for the details.

  5. magechinthana's Gravatar magechinthana
    June 5, 2006 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    The problem is Bangladesh is the reforms have been so late and the developments have taken place ignoring the reform process. Take the growth of mobile market for example. Still there is no proper interconnection regime, but that has not prevented Grameen phone to build an empire of its own. So what is the result? The subscribers in the Grameen network cannot speak to anyone else, and the others cannot speak to the subscribers in the Grameen network. It was like that when I visited there few months back. I do not know whether the situation has changed.

    In Bangladesh, this situation can be seen in every area, not just in Telecom. Take the roads, for example. The road network has not developed, but that has not prevented the increase in the number of vehicles. Result? Traffic jams one can think only in ones worst nightmares.

    I do not say the situation is very different in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but these three countries at least have done something and it is only a challenge of moving forward. Bangladesh, on the other hand is stuck in a bottleneck. It needs to push the reforms process as soon as possible. If not the situation will be worse.

  6. zzainudeen's Gravatar zzainudeen
    June 7, 2006 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    2nd submarine cable beckons Bangladesh
    Govt needs to act fast on joining Asean-led information highway
    Abu Saeed Khan

    A rare opportunity has emerged to connect Bangladesh with a much-needed second low-cost submarine cable as seven leading Asean telecoms operators officially joined hands to deploy a transpacific undersea link to connect with the United States of America.

    Besides acquiring extra bandwidth and directly accessing the USA, sources said, joining this predominantly multi-government submarine cable consortium will become an invaluable backup to the country’s newly commissioned only submarine cable link, SEA-ME-WE4.

    If Bangladesh joins the newly formed consortium, the country’s telecoms and ICT industries will enjoy seamless overseas connection even if one of the two cables gets accidentally snapped underneath the sea.

    Although Bangladesh is not an initial party to the new Asean-led submarine cable venture, diplomatic moves coupled with a sound business plan will give the country a fair chance to be in the team.

    read full article at: http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/06/06/d6060601033.htm

  7. zzainudeen's Gravatar zzainudeen
    June 7, 2006 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    2nd submarine cable beckons Bangladesh: Govt needs to act fast on joining Asean-led information highway
    Abu Saeed Khan

    A rare opportunity has emerged to connect Bangladesh with a much-needed second low-cost submarine cable as seven leading Asean telecoms operators officially joined hands to deploy a transpacific undersea link to connect with the United States of America.
    Besides acquiring extra bandwidth and directly accessing the USA, sources said, joining this predominantly multi-government submarine cable consortium will become an invaluable backup to the country’s newly commissioned only submarine cable link, SEA-ME-WE4.
    If Bangladesh joins the newly formed consortium, the country’s telecoms and ICT industries will enjoy seamless overseas connection even if one of the two cables gets accidentally snapped underneath the sea.
    Although Bangladesh is not an initial party to the new Asean-led submarine cable venture, diplomatic moves coupled with a sound business plan will give the country a fair chance to be in the team.
    The opportunity became visible on Friday when Telekom Malaysia (TM) led the official formation of an initial seven-country consortium to build the Asia-America Gateway (AAG), an international undersea cable system, linking Southeast Asia with the US.
    Responding to TM’s invitation, key officials of AiTi (Brunei), CAT Telekom (Thailand), PLDT (Philippines), REACH (Hong Kong), StarHub (Singapore) and VNPT (Vietnam) gathered in Hong Kong and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly develop a 20,000 kilometres long AAG submarine cable system. It will route between Malaysia and the US via Hong Kong, the Philippines, Guam and Hawaii with branches going to Singapore, Thailand, Brunei and Vietnam.
    “We see growth for broadband in these countries, there’s a big potential,” says Telekom Malaysia’s wholesale division’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Baharum Salleh. “While the price of bandwidth will continue to go down for sure, the usage will go up with VOIP and other developments catching on… now even tier two carriers are requiring VOIP and data.”

    read full article: http://www.thedailystar.net/2006/06/06/d6060601033.htm

  8. June 8, 2006 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    chittagong is always deprived of everything- so do the submarine cable full access.As long as the control of this property belogs to goverment I dont think it could bring any significant role in bangladesh`s future prospect

  9. Mage Chinthana's Gravatar Mage Chinthana
    June 8, 2006 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I have recently watched the excellent Bangla movie Matir Moina, ‘The Clay Bird’. The story was based on East Pakistan (as it was called) in late 1960s. Some scenes brought tears to my eyes while watching and it is sad to know the conditions were so bad. It is not just the poverty. It is ignorance intervened with poverty.

    I am not sure the things have improved since then.

    One biggest issue Bangladesh faces today is corruption. Each and every activity in Bangladesh is connected to corruption in one way or the other. The locals have no qualms in admitting it. Most of the cases it is just the norm than the exception. I think the telecom field is not very different.

    Wonder what Mr.Abu Saeed Khan has to say about that.

  10. amin faiz's Gravatar amin faiz
    April 9, 2007 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    guys. just one submarine cable is not enough for a country. given the chance i can use the whole bandwidth of SWM4 within a month. it only supports about 80000~160000 simultaneous broadband connection, but everybody says that it should meet demands for 20 years. how many internet users have Bangladesh got currently? Bangladesh have not even accepted the full possible capacity of SWM4 like every other members are getting. (it was an optional upgrade offered that only Bangladesh refused). no wonder Bangladesh ranked pretty bad on Networked Readiness Index 2006–2007 rankings.

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