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.
India is the point of transit for every submarine cable connecting Asia with Africa and Europe via Middle East. Altogether 19 submarine cables have landed in five different Indian locations: Mumbai (11 cables), Chennai (4 cables), Cochin (2 cables), Trivandrum (1 cable) and Tuticorine (1 cable). These sparsely located landing points are good enough to make India the home of a highly resilient international connectivity. Early this week Cyclone Vardah has, however, exposed India’s, notably of Bharti Airtel’s, fragility instead. Bharti Airtel has stakes in five submarine cable networks: i2i, SEA-ME-WE 4, EIG, I-ME-WE and AAG.
SEA-ME-WE4, the only submarine cable of Bangladesh, has been down again for 10 days. This outage has affected the business of BSCCL, the state-owned subsea cable monopoly. Doug Madory of Dyn Research, the global Internet performance monitor company, has shared with me the diagnostic image of BSCCL traffic (Click on the thumbnail). Evidently the six cross-border terrestrial operators of Bangladesh have been keeping Internet alive via India. There is, however, a huge risk.
Espionage outfits of Singapore, Australia, USA and UK have unlawfully intercepted the voice and data traffic of SEA-ME-WE 3 and SEA-ME-WE 4 submarine cable networks. Philip Dorling, the National Affairs and Defence Correspondent for The Canberra Times, broke this news quoting Edward Snowden’s leaked information. Australia’s all the major newspapers (Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times) have simultaneously published his sensational exclusive report. Australian intelligence expert and Australian National University professor Des Ball said that intelligence collection from fibre optic cables had become “extremely important” since the late 1990s because such communications channels now carry more than 95 per cent of long distance international telecommunications traffic. “Fibre optic cables are much more difficult to intercept than satellite communications,” Professor Ball said.
The SEA-ME-WE4 undersea cable has been down since April 14. It has been affecting Internet across the Middle East. Seawater has reportedly penetrated in the cable, according to press reports. But the SEA-ME-WE4 consortium’s website says absolutely nothing about it. As if nothing has happened at all.