With all private and state-owned television channels officially inaugurating their broadcast programmes through Bangabandhu Satellite -1 from Wednesday, the nation's telecommunication sector has reached a new milestone in an expansion of digital technology across the country.
The Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company (BCSCL), the operator of the satellite, has also commenced its commercial operation after 1.4 years.
Though all television channels are now privy to a cheaper satellite frequency from the country's maiden satellite, there are yet some challenges they will need to overcome.
A major worry is that the telecast activities of these channels could be interrupted owing to underground signaling cables connecting Dhaka with Gazipur. The interruptions could be related to the fact that excavation and development works are frequently carried out on the roads by various agencies, a reality that has become a regular feature over the years.
Besides, programmes in the Middle East would be difficult to run as the reach of the satellite does not extend to the region.
However, the Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company has reassured television channel owners that the problems they anticipate will not arise.
"There is nothing to be worried about. We have been monitoring the technical difficulties and solving them right from the trial period. The remaining issues will be resolved in due time," said Shahjahan Mahmood, chairman of the BCSCL.
The BCSCL has connected all television channels through fiber optic cables with its ground station instead of installing earth stations as a way of minimizing the costs to be incurred by TV channel owners.
Bangladesh launched Bangabandhu Satellite-1 through Space X from Florida into space on May 12, 2018.
The satellite's operations include "direct-to-home" service for TV channels, VSAT (very small aperture terminal), backhaul and network restoration, disaster preparedness and relief, among others.
The French manufacturer Thales Alenia Space in November last year handed over control of BS-I to the Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company.
Thales launched the BS-I at a cost of Tk 2,765 crore. According to the plan, the costs related to the operations of the satellite will reach break-even within seven years of its commercial service being inaugurated.
The first trial broadcast of BS-I was successfully carried out through the airing of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship 2018.
Meanwhile, the TV channels will subscribe only a third of the capacity of the satellite, which boasts a capacity of 40 transponders.
However, BCSCL has hired the international consultancy firm Thaicom for two years to supervise the marketing and sales of the BS-I connectivity in six countries, including four neighbouring ones.
The Thai firm is currently active in around 20 countries.
The coverage is the strongest in Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, which is the reason why these six countries have initially been chosen for business.
Challenges of the TV channels:
The BS-1 has made strong footprints on Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
As the telecom expert and Chief Technology Officer Sumon Ahmed Sabir put it, "This satellite does not cover the Middle East. But most of our television channels have businesses in the region. So if they want to keep their businesses going there, they will certainly need another satellite.
The second challenge the broadcast organizations will likely face is interruption in their telecast system since there is no ground station in Dhaka, a city which is connected to an underground cable system.
Individuals associated with technical aspects of the various private television channels told The Business Standard that besides Bangabandhu Satellite-1 now they are using foreign satellites for signal transmission. They have stated that they face interruption if they stop using foreign satellite signals.
"Initially there were some problems which have now been solved," according to Md Johirul Islam Ador, Chief Engineer of ATN Bangla.
Lesser satellite rent:
The 34 TV channels operating in the country are currently using the Hong Kong-based Appstar and asianet.
According to TV station engineers, they have to buy two modulators, one each for the Gazipur ground station and Betbunia station.
Against the background of such costs, the Bangabandhu Communicaton Satellite Company Limited has opted for a decrease in the frequency fees of the satellite.
The channels have been coughing up around $4000 per megahertz on a monthly basis for the satellite owners. In contrast, they will be getting services from BS-1 at $2817, a much lower price.
After a year has elapsed, though, the rate will rise to $3500.