The crucial equipment installed at the landing station of the country's lone submarine cable in Cox's Bazar faces serious threats due to poor repairing work done last year.
Figure 2 - SEA-ME-WE-4 Cable Map
Source: SEA-ME-WE-4 Consortium
Officials of Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Ltd or BSCCL said they first saw damage on the rooftop of the landing station building about one and a half years ago, which put submarine cable connectivity at risk.
The Cox's Bazar landing station is a key point installation, only after the president's and the prime minister's offices and residences. Its importance is on par with electricity generation stations and the secretariat, as it is the government's only means of communication with the rest of the world.
However, poor repairing work done in the last 18 months could not mitigate security risks at the landing station.
It's an old building constructed by another state owned company -- Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd -- and the building needs to reconstructed, said Md Monwar Hossain, managing director of BSCCL.
“We have taken all possible measures to repair the building but the current damage puts the structure in danger.”
Acknowledging that the equipment is in danger, Hossain said Evan Enterprise appointed last year for repairs used substandard materials that did not sustain. Meantime, further damage appeared in new areas, he said.
BSCCL formed a probe committee headed by its company secretary Abdus Salam. The team found that the building and equipment inside are at risk.
Officials of BSCCL had noticed the poor quality of repairs before clearing the due bill to Evan Enterprise. It also saw that the firm did not use waterproof materials, according to officials.
Overlooking all recommendations, the managing director paid a Tk 29.2 lakh bill to Evan Enterprise at the end of 2015, BSCCL officials alleged. Later, Hossain blacklisted the company and blocked Tk 6 lakh in further dues.
The probe committee found four spots on the roof where water leaks during rainy season and the sophisticated equipment gets drenched.
Hossain will have to face an audit committee today to discuss the situation. The issue will be placed at a board meeting later today.
“It's an embarrassment for me. I can't go for a new building right now as it will be a huge cost for BSCCL and at the same time, the company can't ignore the risks to equipment,” said Hossain. The board can recommend the next step, he added.
In 2005, BSCCL got connected to SMW-4, its first submarine cable. In July 2008, it also became a public limited company under the telecom ministry.
Currently, the company serves around 130 Gbit/s of internet bandwidth of its 200 Gbit/s capacity. The company has also been exporting 10 Gbit/s bandwidth to the Indian state of Tripura since February.
Source : The Daily Star
ANALYSIS: This is indeed a major embarrassment for BSCCL and its Managing Director. Bangladesh's ICT market is extremely vulnerable to any disruption on SEA-ME-WE-4 until the new SEA-ME-WE-5 consortium cable is commissioned at the beginning of next year. Installation of the SEA-ME-WE-5 branch to Bangladesh has been delayed until November 2016, due to "unusually high tides". This may impact the eventual commissioning date.
A cable landing station provides the interface between a submarine cable and the domestic network. The article above therefore correctly identifies it as an asset of significant strategic importance, especially when it is the only international connection serving the country. Descriptions of "drenched equipment" are beyond belief and suggest a high level of incompetence within BSCCL.
Nevertheless, BSCCL has recently turned in a good financial performance which begs the question, "Why can't profits be used to re-build the landing station at Cox's Bazaar, especially since SEA-ME-WE-5 will have its own new landing station in Bangladesh at Kuakata?" The cost of a new landing station would be in the region of US$1M.
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Julian Rawle, Author
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