Innovation ousts orthodoxy. Soft-switch has replaced telephone exchange equipment. Undersea optical fiber cables have marginalized satellites in intercontinental and transcontinental connectivity. Terrestrial optical fiber networks – along the highways, railway tracks, power grids and gas pipelines – are replacing microwave radio links. All these physical networks lead to data centers at home and abroad.
We generally credit smartphones for making camera and audiovisual players irrelevant. But we often forget that every smartphone is also, by default, a GPS receiver. Quite correct, if not precise, latitude and longitude of the device is being instantaneously updated and displayed. This standard feature is embedded in every smartphone regardless being Android or iOS. It has prompted Battalgazi Yildirim, a (literally young Turk) geophysicist from Stanford, developing a mobile-based IoT application named Zizmos for earthquake’s early warning system.
Nepal Telecom and Hong Kong-headquartered China Telecom Global has connected each other across Nepal’s northern border with Tibet through a mix of underground and all-dielectric self-supporting (ADSS) optical fiber cable network. Activation of this link on January 12, 2018 has ended the exclusivity of Tata’s and Bharti Airtel’s international connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan state. Now Nepal can procure IP-transit, interconnection bandwidth, international leased circuits and cloud services at highly competitive rates from Asia’s one of the two carrier-neutral hubs at Hong Kong (Singapore is the other one). Nepal has reportedly activated only 1.5 Gbps through the Chinese carrier, due to technical constrains of the ADSS link.
Myanmar will raise up to US$121 million in five years through Universal Service Fund (USF) to implement its Universal Service Strategy. The Post and Telecommunications Department under the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) has invited public consultation for this initiative. The USF will be raised from 2 per cent levy of the service providers’ annual revenues. It will be disbursed through a clearly defined targeted subsidy scheme. Open access and technology neutrality has been mandated for the facilities to be built with USF.
Finland is often cited as a miracle of education. Its telecommunication regulation is equally impressive. In 2011, the Finnish consulting Rewheel has predicted that the country’s mobile operators would grow data traffic without increasing investments. It has been proven right, as shown in the chart. Data traffic in Elisa’s Finnish 4G/LTE network has grown by more than 20-times between 2011 and 2017.
Mustafa Jabbar, the newly appointed minister for the Ministry of Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology, cannot waste much time on receiving bouquets and greetings. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has offloaded this portfolio on him after unceremoniously ejecting her veteran comrade in October 2014. Since then Hasina had been minding this ministry besides discharging her prime ministerial duties. She depended on two junior ministers – Zunaid Ahmed Palak for Information Technology and Tarana Halim for Posts and Telecommunications – to run the show. It had been a poor show and Jabbar must fix it.
A senior UN official has blamed the telecoms networks for threatening the road safety across Asia and the United States of America.
With less than a million citizens, Djibouti struggles with the abysmal ICT indicators. Its internet hums with 12% penetration while mobile SIM penetration is 36% only. Now flip the page. Nine submarine cables transit at Djibouti to link Africa, the Middle East and Asia with Europe. Australia is coming soon!
The second submarine cable is supposed to guarantee Bangladesh better international connectivity for the following reasons: Bangladeshi ISPs are eager for SEA-ME-WE5, the second submarine cable. It lands at Kuakata, the southwestern coastal village, this year. Kuakata is 300 nautical miles away from Cox’s Bazar. The two vastly located undersea cable landing facilities will bolster the country’s international connectivity. They will also salvage Bangladeshi ISPs from the Indian carriers’ oligopoly.
Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius have confirmed the completion of 6,600km-long (4,100 miles) subsea cable construction. It spans from Virginia Beach, USA to Bilbao, Spain reaching depths of 11,000 feet below the surface. The cable named Marea, which means tide in Spanish, is the highest capacity cable to cross the Atlantic, offering up to 160Tbps. It is expected to be operational by early 2018. Read more.
Somalia has suffered internet outage, as its only submarine cable – Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) – has been snapped by the anchor of a cargo ship recently. Few affluent users are online through the expensive satellite backups while most of the users remain off-line. Bangladesh was also exposed to similar risk until six operators plugged the country with India across the land borders in 2012. Mogadishu should rush for overland links with Kenya for the resilience of its international connectivity. Otherwise, it will remain vulnerable to frequent outages because of the careless merchant mariners.
While the aviation sector is “Trying to make sense of the new TSA electronics ban” – the submarine cable industry is sending an SOS. The Trump administration may ban the usage of any ship that deploys or maintains the submarine cables, unless it is built in a U.S. shipyard. It also mandates that minimum 75% of the crew are to be the U.
Little over a year ago, I wrote about various infrastructure initiatives linking South Asia with Central Asia. Using the gas pipelines’, power grid’s and road networks’ right-of-way of for cross-border telecoms link was central to my arguments. Now the Indian Railways has planned to create a network, dubbed as ITI-DKD-Y corridor, to operate freight train service over a stretch of 6,000 kilometers. It will connect Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey through railway tracks, according to the Indian Express. Indian Railways has called South Asian railway heads involved in the project to work out the nitty-gritty at a high-level meeting on March 15-16.
The countries in mainland Asia are mostly interconnected through submarine cables. Public and private incumbents abuse their ownership of submarine cable systems followed by hindering competition in wholesale bandwidth sales. As a result, Asia remains impaired by the lack of cross-border Internet connectivity and exorbitant bandwidth prices. Hong Kong and Singapore are the only carrier-neutral wholesale capacity hubs in Asia. Yet, their prices are higher than the corresponding European and North American outlets.
Bangladesh badly needs a second submarine cable for steady supply of international telecoms connectivity. The second cable is also critical to efficiently serve the cross-border customers. That’s the strategic significance SEA-ME-WE 5, the sequel of SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable, for Bangladesh. The new cable has been timely ashore but plugging it to the country’s telecoms networks remains uncertain. Multiple state-owned telecoms outfits, historically inefficient and corrupt, hinder the domestic transmission works of SEA-ME-WE 5.
State-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) is a member of the prehistoric SEA-ME-WE3 and very recent SEA-ME-WE5 submarine cable consortiums. MPT also shares the landing facilities with China Unicom, which brings a branch of Asia Africa Europe-1 (AAE-1) cable to the country. This is how the incumbent has secured the landing of two contemporary submarine cable systems. The government has also injected competition and licensed the Singapore-based Campana Group to build the Myanmar-Thailand International Connection (MYTHIC) submarine cable. Last year Campana has contracted Alcatel-Lucent to build the 1,600km MYTHIC cable, equipped with 100Gbps technology for an initial design capacity of 20Tbps.