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Dhaka Tribune

Restoration in progress: Internet speed returning to normalcy

  • Outstanding dues stands at Tk384 crores
  • Traders looking for alternatives
Update : 28 Nov 2023, 10:26 PM

After enduring a period of sluggish internet speeds, users in Bangladesh are now witnessing a resurgence in their desired connection speeds. 

The positive shift comes with Bangladesh Submarine Cable PLC (BSCPLC), a submarine cable company, initiating the restoration of internet connections for various International Internet Gateway operators.

In a recent update provided on Monday afternoon, BSCPLC revealed that the internet connections for 11 out of 25 companies within the International Internet Gateway (IIG), Internet Service Provider (ISP), and International Gateway (IGW) have been successfully reinstated. 

This follows a temporary reduction in bandwidth attributed to outstanding dues. Notably, among these companies, 9 out of 19 IIG entities, along with 2 out of 6 ISP and IGW companies, have effectively normalized their bandwidth, signaling a promising recovery for internet users in the region.

According to sources, IPLC and IP transit services currently have outstanding dues totaling Tk384 crores from various operators, with Tk181 crores owed by 9 companies. 

Mirza Kamal Ahmed, managing director of BSCPLC, said that between Friday and Sunday, 11 companies collectively paid Tk14 crores in dues.

Expressing confidence in resolving outstanding bills, he said: “We have no worries about the government, including BTCL. BTCL has given Tk18 crore a few days ago. They will pay Tk20 crore this week. All outstanding bills will be paid.”

Besides, among the private companies Fiver Home Global Limited, Earth Telecommunication Private Limited, Windstream Communication Limited, BD Hub Limited, ADN International Gateway, and Telecom Limited have contacted BSCPLC and paid a portion of their dues. 

The bandwidth of these companies has been normalized, Mirza Kamal Ahmed added.

Despite progress, certain private companies, including Amra Technologies, Parex Networks, Max Hub Limited, and I Tel Limited have not made contact or payment. Notably, significant sums are owed by these four companies, totaling Tk61 crores, Tk30 crores, Tk14 crores, and Tk9 crores, respectively.

Mirza Kamal Ahmed emphasized that despite sending multiple letters to these companies for payment, they have not responded. Various letters from the Department of Posts and Telecommunication on August 9, BSCCL on July 7 and BTRC on October 10 have been issued. 

“Last Thursday, the ministry called me and told me to reduce the bandwidth. It is then reduced during the night. But the companies are collecting money from the customers. We need to find out where the money is going.,” he explained.

Mirza Kamal Ahmed said the authorities reduced 190GB of bandwidth of Amra Technologies, 30GB of Parex Network, 30GB of Max Hub and 10-20GB of ITL have been reduced. 

“Internet speed will be normal when we increase the bandwidth of these companies,” he added.

“In the meantime, we have restored bandwidth to normal speeds for companies that have paid even a small amount of arrears,” Mirza Kamal said.

What internet providers say

Moshiur Rahman, chief operating officer (COO) of Fiber Home Global Limited, explained that increased costs, including taxes and VAT, have impacted their expenses. 

He said: “We have to buy internet related equipment at a higher price due to an increased dollar rate. Plus, the government imposed a mandatory 10% tax this year. This has increased our expenses. We have to bear all these. International companies do not bear these costs. But the internet bill at customer level is still the same. That is why we are struggling.”

Saying that this is common for the companies to manage their businesses by leaving 2-3 months in arrears, Moshiur Rahman said: “The issue of dues is nothing new. BTRC is also aware of this. Because it is not possible to pay the bill every month. However, some companies have been misusing this facility for a long time. And now we are facing this kind of problem.”

The COO of Fiber Home Global Limited said: “We are the real victims. We owe a huge sum of money from Parex Network. They are not paying. A trial is also ongoing in BTRC in this connection.”

Meanwhile, an official of the internet service provider company, Label, said that some big companies are using the benefits without paying dues. Other companies that are paying VAT fees on time are under pressure.

When contacted, Amra Technologies Limited official Ripon Enamul declined to make any comment.

Rabiul Islam, the former CEO of Parex Network, acknowledged that there are some arrears. “However, I can't say anything about this now. I left the company this year.”

Meanwhile, Emdadul Haque, President of Internet Service Providers Association of Bangladesh (ISPAB) and owner of Max Hub Limited, criticized the decision taken by BTCL and BSCPCL, terming it very unprofessional.

He said: “They have broken their contract. It was agreed that they will inform us a week before reducing our bandwidth. But they didn’t make any contact.”

Of BSCPCL’s Tk384 crore arrears, only Tk181 crore are due from private companies. The rest are owed from BTCL, Emdadul Haque claimed. 

The ISPAB president further clarified that their primary intent was to settle outstanding bills. Emphasizing the point, he claimed that the letters sent from the authorities did not mention any time frame for payment.

Highlighting the prolonged nature of the outstanding payments, he said: “The arrears did not happen in one or two days. It has been accumulated for the last 12 years. As most of our clients uses post-paid service, we also have to do business with arrears.”

Traders looking for alternatives

Despite the challenges faced by the industry, traders are exploring alternatives. 

Out of 34 licensed International Internet Gateway (IIG) service providers, 25 have experienced reduced bandwidth in the past five days. 

IIG companies act as international gateways for world wide web. Information flows between the country and the rest of the world through this gateway. BSCPCL provides bandwidth to these institutions.

About 50% of Bangladesh’s bandwidth is coming through them. The rest is coming through six International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) providers. 

ISPAB President Emdadul Haque suggested that 40% of customers may not return to BSCPLC due to uncertainties and risks, with some already transitioning to International Terrestrial Cable (ITC) providers. 

He emphasized the need for a resolution through discussions with BSCPLC and BTRC to address the ongoing internet problems, foreseeing potential shifts in the industry if the situation persists.

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