Incorporating fibre optic cables to existing power distribution infrastructure

Tariq Al Banna
Wednesday, August 30th, 2017


It is a set goal of the Government of Bangladesh to make the country digital by the year 2021. But even after setting the goal several years back, it is not clear to country’s people what it actually means being digitalized. Being digitalized doesn’t necessarily mean using internet only. It doesn’t mean a healthy number of Facebook users. It doesn’t mean sending e-mails from any place of the country.


First and foremost, it means digitalisation of services related to basic human needs including education, medicine and food. We must remember that being digitalised by 2021 means serving every household in the country with fibre optic cables by that time; including, needless to say, households in every village and upazila of the country.


For this, we have to bring the activities of every ministry, educational institute, hospital and other government and non-government organisations under a single umbrella of interrelated internet communication. The most important job is to create a countrywide infrastructure for the availability of internet bandwidth.


If we can successfully bring  fibre optic cables to every door of the country, the gains will be numerous. Since long, the country’s Internet Service Providers (ISP) and Nationwide Transmission and Telecommunication Network (NTTN) operators have been engaged in a blame-gaming, putting the responsibility of the country’s slow digital progress on each other. The country’s wired ISPs say NTTN operators are not active to increase the number of source points from where ISPs get their supply of internet bandwidth while NTTN operators allege that the country’s ISPs are not working on taking the optic cables underground.


In this backdrop, if we consider the current pace of the country’s digital progress, it seems almost impossible to reach the goal of total digitalisation by 2021.


If we look at the existing infrastructure of power distribution of the country, we see that Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO), Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC), Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) and Power Development Board (PDB) together have reached almost all the doors of the country. If we can somehow use these infrastructures to supply fastest internet connection to every door, we would not have to invest separately to build up a countrywide separate infrastructure, solely dedicated to internet supply.


We must keep in mind that as a lower middle-income country we cannot invest a huge amount to build the desired infrastructure. From this month, power authorities hiked the price to maintain its expenditure. It can be a source of huge earning for the power ministry if its existing countrywide infrastructures can be shared with ICT sector.


If we can integrate fibre optic cable to existing power infrastructure, meaning the existing power pillars all over the country, we can easily reach all the doors of the country without making a huge investment to build a new separate infrastructure especially dedicated to internet bandwidth supply.


We will have to set up just another cable – a fibre optic cable which would carry and supply internet bandwidth to people – to the existing power cables of all the DPDC, DESCO, BREB and PDB pillars across the country. Following this cost effective policy, ensuring fastest connection can be achieved easily. Within one year we can reach the target. We will have a countrywide internet supply system based and depended on an infrastructure that has already passed the test of time. Moreover, as per the future plan of the country, when DPDC, DESCO, BREB and PDB cables would go underground, there would be no additional problem to carry the fibre optic cable along with power cables.


It must be mentioned that this proposal is nothing new to our country. PGCB (Power Grid Company of Bangladesh) that is the sole entity in control of  countrywide power transmission infrastructure has set up a fibre optic cable within their existing power cables, integrating fibre optic supply of the NTTN operators and telco industry. On its own website, PGCB says “This technology of placing optical fiber within the ground wire is being widely used throughout the world at present.”


ICT Ministry jointly with the assistance of Power and Energy Ministry can follow the same method to take internet all over the country, enhancing the current slow pace of digital progress. Irish government is implementing the same project using the infrastructure of a private telco company.


The country’s ISPs have been rebuked for a long time for their overhead jungle of cables in Dhaka and other cities. Those cables in some places even block the passers-by from having a look at the city sky. It is a bright side of this proposal that this proposed integrated internet supply system would not create another jungle of cables or hamper the beauty of the cityscape, as only one cable would be enough to supply bandwidth to an entire area or upazila, rather it would easily solve the problem.




Finally it can be said that by adopting this project the fastest, most reliable and direct fiber connection can be ensured for the country people. Business, healthcare, education, agriculture and energy industries will transform drastically using the fastest internet connection available; a new world of possibilities will open up.


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