Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited (BSCCL), a core submarine cable internet bandwidth provider in the country, is to extend its existing capacity by 1,600 Gbps to reach 3,500 Gbps by mid-2022 in order to ensure high-speed internet amid growing demand.
According to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, in the last five years till April 2021, the number of internet users jumped by 86% to 11.54 crore. In this period, mobile internet subscribers increased by 80% to 105.62 million and broadband users jumped by 205% to 9.81 million.
Besides, from March 2020 to April this year, the number of broadband users jumped by 71% amid the increased use of digital platforms to conduct official tasks and meetings due to Covid-19.
BSCCL officials say the analysis of International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) bandwidth usage in the last few years shows the annual bandwidth usage growth is about 70%.
Since the beginning of 2017, the market share of BSCCL began to increase significantly, which is now about 74%.
As per a BSCCL report, the government has plans to launch 5G services in the country by this year. If that happens, the demand for bandwidth will go up further.
To meet the growing demand, the company has decided to increase the bandwidth capacity of its two submarine cables.
"We also need to upgrade the related equipment. The additional capacity will bring more revenue for us," said Md Shohidul Islam, general manager of the company.
BSCCL operates two submarine cable landing stations. The first is SMW-4 in Cox's Bazar launched in 2005 and the second is SMW-5 in Kuakata, which started operations in 2017.
Submarine cables are installed and run by the international submarine cable consortium known as SEA-ME-WE (SMW).
BSCCL has applied to add 600 Gbps to the first cable. The existing capacity of the cable is 700 Gbps.
Shohidul said the consortium had already started working on this and would hopefully be done in the middle of next year.
On the Singapore-Kuakata route, 900 Gbps will be added to the second cable within January next year. Its existing capacity is 1,200 Gbps.
Besides, the company has already upgraded the capacity of the second cable by 100 Gbps on the Kuakata-Marseille (France) route. After enhancement, its total capacity will be 2,200 Gbps.
Third submarine cable's installation progress
The proposed third submarine cable, SMW-6, is going to be installed in Cox's Bazar within 2024 and the project cost is Tk693 crore. It alone will add 6,000 Gbps to the total capacity.
BSCCL has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the international submarine cable consortium to connect with this cable.
The government will provide Tk392.33 crore for the project while BSCCL will pay the remaining Tk300.83 crore.
A company official said within July this year, to start the cable's installation, all members of the consortium would sign a construction and maintenance agreement with the supplier.
Selling second cable's western part
At present, Bangladesh consumes 1,564 Gbps of bandwidth from BSCCL and 95% of it comes from the Singapore route.
That is why the company has decided to sell 25.31% of the capacity of the western section (France route) of the second submarine cable for a one-time fee of Tk30.6 crore to Saudi Telecom Company.
It is also searching for a customer to sell the remaining capacity of the western part.
An official of the company said if the connection is transferred to Saudi Telecom Company, BSCCL's operation and maintenance cost for the second cable will reduce proportionately in the coming days.
He said, "In our country, people mostly use the internet to browse social media and video streaming sites, and play games. These sites have offices in Singapore. That is why Bangladesh is using the submarine cable of the Singapore route."
"If we use the cable from the western or European part, it will consume a higher amount of bandwidth. Bangladesh has to pay operational and maintenance costs for the western part of the cable every year."
BSCCL posted a 34% growth in revenue and a 90% rise in net profit in the first three quarters of this fiscal year compared to the same period last year.
The state-run company said due to substantial efforts of its management, the government's policy of digitisation of services, and the introduction of 4G services had helped increase the overall international private leased circuit (IPLC) usage in the country.
According to its financial statement, in the July-March period, revenue rose by 34% to Tk244.09 crore and net profit increased by 90% to Tk124.75 crore compared to the same period of the last fiscal year.
In the last fiscal year, the company paid a 20% cash dividend to the shareholders and also posted a 63% higher profit of Tk95.60 crore compared to the year before.
BSCCL got listed on both stock exchanges in 2012.
In the last one year, its share price jumped by 144% to Tk189.70 each at the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE).
On Monday, its share price fell by 0.27% to Tk181.70 each at the DSE.
Out of its total shares, the government owns 73.84%, institutional investors 12.66%, foreign investors 2.68%, and general investors 10.82%.