BANGLADESH: Submarine cable snapped in Egypt

Communication services to western world disrupted after cable that provides Internet to Bangladesh snaps again

The Daily Star
Thursday, January 31, 2008

The country's international telephone and internet communications were disrupted yesterday as the submarine cable that connects Bangladesh to the information superhighway was snapped in the sea near Alexandria, Egypt.

Sources in Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) said the Submarine Cable SEA-ME-WE4 was snapped in Alexandria, disrupting the country's digital communications to the western world via Italy and France.

However, communications with Singapore and Malaysia were fully operational.

The submarine cable connects Bangladesh to the information superhighway at four points in Italy, France, Singapore and Malaysia.

According to BTTB, the line was supposed to be restored within early yesterday night.

This was the first time for Bangladesh that data communication was disrupted because of the submarine cable being snapped under the sea.

As bulk of data transmission relies on the connectivity with Italy and France, the BTTB gave alternative satellite support for telecom services while the Internet service providers (ISPs) gave backup services using Vsats. However, the data communication was very slow.

"But we are expecting restoration of the services. The consortium [that built the SEA-ME-WE4 cable] is taking care of the restoration work of the submarine cable," said a BTTB high official yesterday afternoon.

"If it happened in the Bay of Bengal, we would not be able to restore the line because we did not ask for a restorable circuit during the installation. The consortium offered us the choice of installing these circuits which facilitate restoration of the line when snapped, but we did not take it to save cost," he said.

The $35.1 million submarine cable was launched in 2006. Ever since there have been more than two dozen rounds of disruptions -- all caused by problems with the on-land fibre optic line.

Each disruption deprives BTTB of $70,000 revenue per hour.

Sources said the SMW-4 cable has a capacity to handle 120Gb bandwidth, of which Bangladesh currently subscribes to 14Gb. The BTTB has already cashed in more than Tk 200 crore revenue through rental of bandwidth.