The telecom sector had accomplished three major tasks, including the contract signing for the launching of the country’s maiden satellite Bangabandhu-I, in last year.
The second job was the introduction of biometric registration of mobile SIM cards that in turn will help reducing crimes. The third was the introduction of free basic Facebook by telecom operator Robi Axiata through the government`s Access to Information (a2i) Project.
Telecoms regulator Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on November 11, 2015, struck a deal worth Tk 1,951 crore with Franco-Italian aerospace manufacturer Thales Alenia Space, awarding the firm the work order for manufacturing and launching the country’s first ever commercial and broadcast satellite Bangabandhu-I.
BTRC Chairman Shahjahan Mahmood and Jean-Loic Galle, chairman and chief executive officer of Thales Alenia Space, inked the deal for their respective side. State Minister for posts and telecommunications Tarana Halim was present as chief guest to witness the landmark event.
As per the agreement, Thales Alenia Space will manufacture, launch and maintain the satellite for providing communication and broadcast services. The firm will get 24 months’ time to launch the satellite.
The government wants to launch the satellite on December 16, the 45th anniversary of the country’s victory in the Liberation War.
Speaking on the occasion, Tarana Halim said, “This contract is a final step towards the fulfillment of our long cherished dream of launching the first ever satellite of Bangladesh “Bangabandhu Satellite -1”.
“I feel proud to mention that with the launch of Bangabandhu Satellite, Bangladesh will become the 57th member of the exclusive club of satellite owning country,” she added.
French Ambassador Sophie Aubert was present at the programme with Posts and Telecommunications Division Secretary Faizur Rahman Chowdhury in the chair.
Ministry officials said the government has selected Thales Alenia Space for handling the satellite as per the recommendation made by the telecom regulator after scrutinising its financial and technical proposals.
Four companies— Great Wall Industries Corporation of China, Thales Alenia Space of France, Orbital ATK of the United States, and MDA Corporation of Canada— had participated in the international tender called by the BTRC for the satellite.
Earlier, on October 20, the cabinet committee on government purchase approved the tender proposal in favour of Thales for the satellite, which will be used for telecommunication and broadcast purposes as all other participants became non-responsive during the bidding process.
Officials said MDA Corporation became the lowest bidder with US$ 22 crore while Thales proposed US$ 24.80 crore. But, the telecom regulator selected Thales as it came up with much better technical specifications than MDA.
Officials familiar with the launching process said a satellite is sent into the space on top of a rocket. Aimed at averting any kind of risk, Bangladesh has decided to keep ready a spare rocket for the launch that may increase the cost slightly.
The satellite would be launched into the orbital slot on 119.1 degrees east longitude which (slot) was bought from Russian satellite company “Intersputnik” for US$ 28 million this year.
The Bangabandhu satellite will have 40 transponders, which would be able to serve the SAARC countries, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as countries such as Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. One transponder is equivalent to 36 MHz.
Under the project, two earth stations would be set up at Joydevpur in Gazipur and Betbunia in Rangamati.
Bangladesh spends around US$ 14 million annually on satellite rents for running television channels, telephones and radio connectivity.
Once launched, the satellite would save around Tk 110-120-crore in foreign currency annually in broadcasting expenditure.
The government introduced biometrics registration for subscriber identity modules (SIMs) and removable user identity module (R-UIMs) officially on December 16.
Bangladesh is the second country to introduce biometric registration for SIM and RUIM and the initiative has been implemented to ensure the ownership of cellular phone number, which in turn, will help curbing telephone-based crimes.
On November 15, all the cellular phone operators started the trial of the registration system at their respective customer care centers by installing biometric verification devices that are linked with the national identity card database of Election Commission (EC). But, the biometric verification witnessed mismatch between the subscribers’ fingerprints taken at their customer centres and those stored in the NID database.
Asked, Tarana Halim said the issue came up as two or three digits were missing while inserting national identity card number of a subscriber during registration.
“During the piloting, evaluating different kinds of feedback from the operators and Election Commission, all the problems have been solved. Now, we are ready to run it,” the state minister clearly stated.
Prime Minister’s ICT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy inaugurated trial on October 22 by registering a SIM of Teletalk for himself through giving fingerprints.
Currently, Bangladesh has six mobile phone operators including state-run Teletalk. The other five are Grameenphone, Robi, Airtel, Banglalink, and Citycell.
Robi launched free data tied up with internet.org on May 10, which allows its subscribers to browse 29 sites without any cost. The 29 websites include some national dailies, National Web Portal, Bangladesh Government Service Portal and National Form Portal.
Activists of free internet movement, however, have globally refused to recognise the initiative of internt.org as “free internet”.
Internet.org offers access to selected services in the less developed countries, which does not allow the users to download or transfer any files.
According to the Information and Communication Technology Division, State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak inaugurated the service. Top officials of Facebook also attended the inauguration.