Mixed messages from Bangladesh regulator

Posted on January 6, 2013  /  2 Comments

For too long the government of Bangladesh has hesitated to accept the fact that the only realistic way a majority of its people can be connected to the Internet is over wireless media and has tended to treat the mobile industry as a cash cow to be taxed in order to fund Digital Bangladesh and other general expenses. Therefore, it is heartening to hear the new BTRC Chair recognizing the reality in a report carried in the Daily Star.

One hopes that he is not talking about FTTH (except to apartment blocks and such) when he refers to optical fiber in the same sentence. One seriously hopes that he is talking about optical fiber in the backhaul network. Ensuring open access to the existing optical fiber network within Bangladesh operated by BTCL should be a priority for the BTRC if it wishes to improve Internet access.

It is not possible to provide wired internet connections to every house in the country, he said. So the government now plans to provide internet through wireless and optical fibre cable lines, Bose said.

“We have planned to develop the telecommunication infrastructure in the country.”

He said the government has provided six licences for international terrestrial cables (ITC), and some of the ITC companies have already started their services.

Work is going on to set up a satellite in Bangladesh’s orbit, he said.

The headline was about the BTRC lowering broadband prices. Low prices are good, but unless they are above the costs of providing the service, they are unsustainable. LIRNEasia research has shown that broadband quality of service experience, especially latency is unsatisfactory in Dhaka. Why the BTRC Chair is promoting satellites in the context of Internet use is somewhat problematic, because satellites are incapable of providing low latency due to the laws of physics, especially given Bangladesh’s location which will require two hops or at least a hybrid satellite-fiber link to reach the Internet cloud.

This same satellite fixation afflicts the decision makers in Sri Lanka. Perhaps, the two countries can collaborate on a satellite thus minimizing the resulting losses.


  1. It reminds me of John Ruskin, “He who can take no interest in what is small will take false interest in what is great.” Because, the BTRC chair is not talking about FTTH. He rather refers to FTTx at rural level.

    “Broadband Internet service through the optical fibre is essential to ensure quality ICT services and that is why the government has decided to install optical fibre network across the country,” current BTRC chair and the then posts and telecommunications secretary Sunil Kanti Bose told the national news agency in late 2011. This US$68 million project to deploy 11,060 kilometers of fiber to link 1,000 Union Parishad (smallest administrative unit) was approved last year. ROI of this scheme remains equally illusive.

    Slashing the wholesale price of submarine cable’s bandwidth by 50% through executive order doesn’t bring good news for the consumers. Because, payment to the middleman, aka NTTN, increases the cost of reaching the cable landing station at Cox’s Bazar. The BTRC, for obvious reasons, ignores the damage being done by the NTTNs.

  2. “This same satellite fixation afflicts the decision makers in Sri Lanka. Perhaps, the two countries can collaborate on a satellite thus minimizing the resulting losses.”