In order to tap the potentials of ICT sector, Bangladesh has made giant strides in various sectors, particularly in digital communication services, health, economy, and agriculture etc. One such egregious instance is launching a satellite of its own. Many a people, who raised eyebrows or looked askance at the initiative, branding it a lavish one, have now been forced to eat a humble pie. The venture of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 (BS-I) is now a roaring success, which sticks out a mile from the fact that within a year of its launch, it went into commercial operation a few days ago.
On the second day of this month, in a gala ceremony at a city hotel commercial transmission of BS-I was formally opened by Prime Minister Shekih Hasina. This paves the way for all 34 local private television channels to use the feed of the BS-1 on a commercial basis -- a development that will save the country large sums of foreign currency.For example, under the channels’ previous arrangement with Hong Kong-based Star Alliance, they were paying $4,000 to $5,000 a month for per Megahertz (MHz) of spectrum. It is to be noted that each TV station requires 4 to 6 MHz frequency to run its broadcast operations. Now the cost will come down to less than $3,000 a month as each TV channel will pay $2,817 for it to Bangladesh Communication Satellite Company Ltd (BCSCL), the parent company of the country’s first satellite.
Not only that, it has also opened up the new era of communication for the water vessel transports as already 20 TV channels providing services to the launches of Dhaka-Barisal routes. This will help onboard passengers and operators not only to enjoy programs round the clock but receive prior or instant information of weather conditions aired on the channels, thereby it would be possible to avoid impending dangers of extreme weather such as storms, cyclone, and tidal surge etc in the waterways.
As well as providing feed to local television channels (TVs), BS-I is set to connect all the automated teller machines (ATM) of the country to offer uninterrupted and secured banking services. Initially, a major private bank has set about taking the advantage of BS-I to bring all their cash machines located in remote areas under its coverage through the dedicated bandwidth of it. Since there is little likelihood of any information leakage in the satellite environment, BS-I is supposed provide more secured service for ATM than fiber-based connection.
According to insiders, the parts of the country, which are in the middle of nowhere, are also going to be connected with internet services using the bandwidth of the country’s first geostationary communication satellite. To this end, the relevant authorities have got a project off the ground to provide 3G and broadband internet connectivity using BS-I to the people of Hatia Island and other isolated parts in the country. Besides, while the project of bringing around 7000 ATM booths of different banks under the coverage of BS-I is going according to plan, a number of projects, including telemedicine and e-education are in the pipeline.
Apart from that, the BCSCL is trying to strike deals with the army and the navy offering to exploit the service of BS-I. Under the agreements, Bangladesh Army will take two transponders, while VSATs, navy and air force one transponder each. It is pertaining to note that Bangabandhu Satellite-1 has 40 transponders in total and the televisions will use about 5.5 transponders. Earlier, Akash, a local direct-to-home (DTH) service provider of Beximco Communication, took six transponders from the satellite. Besides, Nepal and Philippine have already expressed their inertest in taking out a lease on the BS-I.
However, experts have pointed out some limitations of the country’s first geostationary satellite: first, it is mostly a communication satellite and that it is not suitable for other purpose such as scientific research or weather forecasts etc. Second, it has no coverage in Europe and low footprint in the middle-eastern countries where many expatriate Bangladeshis are living. So, they cannot view the programs of TVs feeding from the satellite. And the last, with some weakness in its design, it has much to be desired to become a more business friendly satellite.That apart, in absence of uplink stations in the capital, TV channels currently have to send their programs through a fiber optic cable to the BS-I’s ground satiation in Gazipur and from there the programs are uplinked. As fiber optic cable is susceptible to breakdown any moment, this is a major concern for the Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) about going all in with Bangabandhu Satellite. So, the ATCO’s demand for a place in the city to set up their uplink stations merits consideration.
Overall, the Tk 2702 crore epoch-making project is up and running and seems to be on track to recuperate the cost within eight years though reaching the benefits, especially its cost effectiveness, to the mass people remains a concern. Having handed over the commercial deed to the ATCO, our prime minster asked the authorities concerned to move for the second satellite with wider perspectives. It is also an electoral pledge of the ruling party to launch the second satellite within its current tenure, and hopefully, the BCSCL has embarked on it.
On a lighter note, after lunching the satellite, our premier told the audiences that we can now set our sights on achieving even bigger dream--landing on the moon. She also reminded them that in order to realise the dream, her government has setup an institute, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Aviation and Aerospace University (BSMRAAU) which would facilitate research on space science. In the similar vein, we also hold that the fulfillment of the dream of moon landing would soon be within our grab provided everybody related to the endeavor pulled their weight and the government pulled out all the stops to make it happen.
The writer is an Associate Engineer, Thakral Information Systems Pvt. Ltd