Sunday, July 24, 2005 - Bangladesh Telecom

Submarine Cable Project - Bangladesh

Update ***

May 21 ***

Submarine cable opens today - Bangladesh to join global information superhighway

Bangladesh embarks onto the global information superhighway today (21st May) as Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is scheduled to inaugurate the submarine cable at its landing station at Cox's Bazar coast.

The commissioning of the new systems sets a landmark in the country's telecommunications and information communication technology sector as it will tremendously enhance the performance and capacity in this field, said officials of the Telecommunications Ministry.

They viewed that the capacity of telecommunications and data transfer would be greatly enhanced from the present level, giving a high-speed, low-priced Internet and telecommunications gateway to the users to catch up with the fast-moving world.

Bangladesh earlier signed an agreement with 12 other countries under a consortium in 2004 to implement a mega-project at a cost of Tk 628 crore for installing the submarine cable down the seabed.

The consortium called South East Asia-Middle East-West Europe-4 was formed to implement the project for connecting the country with undersea optical fibre passing from Singapore through Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and a number of Middle-Eastern countries to finally land in France.

Now the county will have a 10-gigabyte data-transfer capacity a second, 68 times higher than the current speed, the official said about the benefits the nation is going to reap-though a bit late.

Earlier, Bangladesh had missed the bus to get onto the information superhighway by not joining the group when the submarine cable passed through the Bay of Bengal.

The capacity is considered adequate for the next 10 years and the submarine cable has a life of 15 years.

The state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) and over 100 Internet service providers (ISP) now have a 150-megabyte data-transfer capacity per second, the officials claimed.

Also, the submarine cable link is going to provide the infrastructure for large-scale software export and scope for investment in the knowledge economy.

Submarine link opens today but not for users

On the eve of the inauguration of submarine cable system that will connect Bangladesh to the information superhighway, the ISP Association of Bangladesh yesterday expressed its concerns that due to lack of local infrastructures, the country's 25 lakh(2.5 Million) internet users will face major disappointments.

The country has not prepared any network to support the use of this high bandwidth which will be available with the submarine cable. The country has not even decided when this network will be set up or completed.

Akhtaruzzaman Manju, president of the association, said the country may be deprived of the benefits of having this cable system because till date the government has not fixed a "bandwidth policy", or fixed a price for availing the bandwidth to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The BTTB has not set up collocation facility in all of its exchanges. The country has not also determined any backup for the submarine cable system.

May 1 ***

The BTTB again missed the deadline for the inauguration of the submarine cable as the Prime Minister's Office failed to make a schedule for the prime minister.

After missing several deadlines, the telephone board said the prime minister, Khaleda Zia, would inaugurate the submarine cable on April 30.

'The installation and testing of the fibre optic cable has already been completed, and now it is ready for use,' the project director, Monwar Hossain, said.

Hesfibel and Harris Corporation, the contractors of the cable installation projects sources said the total installation of 156 KM optic cable, commissioning of microwave link between Cox's Bazar and Chittagong and up gradation of the existing optic-fibre link between Dhaka and Chittagong have been completed.

He said the board is now waiting for the prime minister's schedule to open the undersea cable which will improve overseas voice and data communication, and meet the growing demand for international traffic by using high quality international fibre optic circuits.

Earlier, the installation of 156 kilometres fibre optic cable between the Cox's Bazar landing station and Chittagong had been completed which would enable the board to make available the capacity of the undersea cable in the national network.

It is expected that PM Khaleda Zia will
inaugurate submarine cable earlier May at Zhilanja in Cox's Bazar.

Meanwhile, regarding submarine cable benefit, IT experts and Internet service providers of the country expressed their concern that, although it would be opened, how long it would take to reach the benefit to the user's end is still uncertain as some related issues, including the rate of bandwidth, its distribution system, and non-discriminatory policy and regulation are yet to be finalised.

January 14 `2005

Submarine cable facilities NOT before late April

Internet users will have to wait till April to avail facilities of the submarine cable as construction of Cox's Bazar-Chittagong optical fibre link will not be completed before then.

Sources in the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board said although installation of fibre optic cable was expected to be completed by February, it will not be possible before March due to slow implementation.

'The facilities of the submarine cable will be available in the national network after installation of an optic fibre link between Cox's Bazar landing station and Chittagong,' said and official of the board, the implementing agency of the project.

A Turkish company, Hesfibel, won the Tk 28 crore contract to lay about 165 kilometres of fibre optic cable in a re-tender as the cabinet committee on public procurement citing corruption, rejected the offer of a German company, Siemens, which was selected from the first tender.

The official said as per the contract, Hesfibel will complete the job by April, but the government wants to have it done by February.

A coordination meeting of posts and telecommunications ministry in the last week of December, chaired by the telecommunications minister Aminul Haque, asked the board to speed up the process and finish in due time.

Bangladesh has already been connected with the 16-party consortium of the 20,000km SEA-ME-WE-4 submarine cable project as the consortium members inaugurated the high capacity cable on December 13 in Dubai. The cable stretches from France to Singapore.

As a consortium member, the state-owned Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board has to spend Tk 657 crore for laying the submarine cable.

December 13
Submarine cable officially opens
The high capacity fiber-optic submarine cable has officially been inaugurated and declared operational yesterday connecting Bangladesh with international super highway. Initially the country got connected with Middle East by 120 out of 220 channels of this submarine cable.
The announcement was made at a high profile meeting of the 16-member consortium held at Grand Hyatt in Dubai attending by representatives of all consortium partners, guests and media personalities.
Chairman of Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB), Abdul Maleque Akhand, representing Bangladesh in the consortium meeitng, termed the submarine cable, which now ready for service, as a symbol of international cooperation.
"This cable will enable Bangladesh to join the international super highway, bring international telecom services within the reach of common people and open up opportunity for rapid growth of ICT in Bangladesh," he said.
The BTTB Chairman hoped that all concerned would do their best to utilization the cable capacity properly and reach its benefit to the end-users.The consortium comprising leading global telecom enterprises carried out the mega project that stretches from France to Singapore.
The latest cable named SEA-ME-WE-4, (South East Asia, Middle East and Western Europe), is the fourth is a series of super highway that connects three continents over a distance of almost 20 thousand kilometers with a capacity of 1.28 Terabytes per second.
The 16-companies with which the consortium is formed are-Algerie Telecom, Bharti of India, BTTB of Bangladesh, CAT Telecom of Thailand, Etisalat of UAE, France Telecom, MCI, PTCL of Pakistan, Singapore Telecom, Sri Lanka Telecom, Saudi Telecom, Telecom Egypt, Telecom Italia Sparkle, Telekom Malaysia, Tunisie Telecom of Tunisia and VSNL.

Turkish company Hesfible awarded work of fibre optic project

The Cabinet Committee on government purchase at a meeting yesterday has awarded the installation work of the much talked about Chittagong - Cox's Bazar fibre optic link project to a Turkish company named Hesfible at a cost of Tk 28.78 crore.

The 165-kilometre optical fibre cable, after lying, will connect Bangladesh with the Information Super Highway through the SEA-ME-WE 4 Submarine Cable Network from Singapore to Marseilles in France.

Earlier the purchase committee disapproved the proposal to award the contract to Siemens of Germany at a cost of about Tk 49 crore due to irregularities.

Finance and Planning Minister M Saifur Rahman who chaired the meeting told newsmen that the Monday’s approval to the Turkish company has saved Tk 22 crore to the government.

'We are already behind the time, we had to do it earlier,' he said replying to a question.

Due to immense irregularities the Cabinet Committee earlier ordered the T&T Board to float a fresh tender in this regard. The board in April last floated fresh tender and opened the seven bids on May 8 this year. The bidders are Alcatel of France, Hesfible of Turkey, Siemens of Germany, Samsung of Korea, and Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation and China National Railway Construction of China.

Among the seven bidders, the ZTE offered Tk 19.1 crore, Chaina National Railway Tk 21.17 crore, Heisfibel Tk 28.78 crore, Huawei Tk 31.63 crore, Samsung Tk 36.89 crore, Alcatel Tk 36.94 crore and Siemens Tk 42 crore.

The technical evaluation committee headed by T&T board chairman Engr Abdul Maleque Akhand dropped two of the Chinese companies the ZTE and the National Railway in the initial stage.

After the installation of fibre optics costing Tk 657 crore, Bangladesh will be connected to the information super highway with a total of 14 countries including India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Under this scheme the company will upgrade the 260 kilometer Chittagong-Dhaka optical fiber link also.

Secretary to the Ministry for Post and Telecommunication Mahmud Hasan Mansur hoped that the installation work would be completed by the next four month.


July 23

The Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board has selected Hesfibel, a little known Turkish company for laying 165 kilometres of optical fibre cable from Cox’s Bazar to Chittagong.

Hesfibel was established in Kayseri, Turkey in 1990 to produce fibre optic cable.
Sources in the board said the 10-member technical evaluation committee headed by its chairman, Abdul Maleque Akhand, last week completed evaluating the offers of seven companies.

The first tender was cancelled by the cabinet committee on purchase for irregularities.

The purchase committee in March asked the board to float a fresh tender, rejecting the board’s proposal to award the contract to Siemens of Germany although it was the most expensive bidder.

The committee also directed the telecom ministry to act against the officials involved in the tender manipulation.

The board floated the fresh tender in April and opened the seven bids on May 8. The bidders, international telecom equipment manufacturers, include Alcatel of France, Hesfibel of Turkey, Siemens of Germany, Samsung of Korea, and Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation and China National Railway Construction of China.

According to sources, among the bidders, the ZTE offered Tk 19.1 crore, national railway Tk 21.17 crore, Heisfibel Tk 28.78 crore, Huawei Tk 31.63 crore, Samsung Tk 36.89 crore, Alcatel Tk 36.94 crore and Siemens Tk 42 crore.

The evaluation committee dropped two of the Chinese companies — ZTE and the national railway — in its initial screening.

The board recommended Hesfibel to the posts and telecommunications ministry and asked its proposal to be forwarded to the purchase committee for approval.

They said if the purchase committee approves Hesibel, the board will sign a deal with the company and it will be required to complete cable installation within six months of signing the deal.

Sources said it was not possible for Bangladesh to join the submarine cable by the yearend even if the installation of 1,260km Bangladesh segment of SEA-ME-WE4 submarine cable concludes on time by October, unless the fibre optic link between Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong is in place.


The site has details of how a legitimate international tender was thrown out for no other reason than the prospect of inconceivable enrichment through accepting another backdoor unsolicited proposal from Singtel (a Singapore based Telecommunication company), which has already set foot in Bangladesh acquaring large share of a local cellular company citycell. The catch is that the original tender had an upgradable capacity of 960gbps whereas now BTTB will be having only 10gbps connectivity, which will be exhausted in a couple of years. Now, as Bangladesh is linked with the consortium, the other members of the consortium would also be able to sell their bandwidth in Bangladesh in more competitive rate than BTTB. Singtel has already obtained license for providing Internet through VSAT from Bangladesh and they will only have to invest $15 million to add a backbone in Bangladesh to provide their service. If BTTB wants more bandwith to meet the growing demand, it will have to invest in another connection.

Integrity International reveals that Bangladesh has already lost $250 million in revenue in the two years delay of the project due to retendering. And Bangladesh will loose exponential revenue growth to other companies like Singtel & Bharti Telecom because BTTB was not allowed to safeguard its legitimate interests in the original SEAMEWE-4 negotiations.

This submarine cable has become a curse on Bangladesh after the in mid eighties Ershad military government turned down an offer by another consortium to add Bangladesh with no cost (only they wanted the cable placed through Bangladesh Sea waters). It is said that Ershad was convinced by a report wrote by an arts graduate army major (in charge of communication ministry), which cited that it is a ploy to smuggle all Bangladeshi information through this cable. Some blame the digital divide; I say it is sheer bad luck for Bangladesh that this potential sector forever allured the Bangladeshis.

** I'll keep more up to date information on this. So, if you are interested on this, keep an eye on this Blog!

You can click on the Image below to see the SEAMEWE-4 Cable setup in large size.


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