Connectivity: Bhutan is likely to import 2.5 to 10 Gbps (gigabits per second) of Internet bandwidth from Bangladesh to establish third international link to the Internet.

However, officials from the information and communications ministry said that it is too early to say at what price Bhutan will buy bandwidth from Bangladesh. Discussions are at preliminary stage.

Officials said that a detailed business modality is yet to be worked out. “We need more detailed information from both India and Bangladesh,” said an official, adding that the cost of establishing international gateway even within Bhutan will have to be accounted in the return on investment. “If the discussions go well, the price of the bandwidth is expected to come down.”

According to Department of IT and Telecom (DIT) officials, the price offered by Bangladesh will be till the Bangladesh-India border. There will also be some additional cost when the Internet connectivity passes through the Indian territory.

“We will not be able to share the current prices of bandwidth imported from India owing to non-disclosure agreement between incumbent Bhutanese operators and their counterparts in India,” DIT officials said, adding that even the price offer of Bangladesh is not yet finalised. “The government will have to negotiate the price as and when we finally decide on the matter.”

According to The Financial Express, a Dhaka-based paper, the Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company Limited has offered Bhutan bandwidth between the ranges of USD 14 to USD 18 per Mb (megabyte). According to the paper, the amount is three times lower than the rate Bhutan is currently paying to India for Internet –USD 52 per Mb.

A technical team comprising of experts from Tashi InfoComm, Bhutan Telecom, Bhutan Power Corporation and DIT is studying the feasibility of bringing in Internet connectivity from Bangladesh.

Information and communications minister DN Dhungyel was in Bangladesh last month to discuss the modalities of getting the additional bandwidth. Lyonpo also met with the minister of Post and Telecommunication of Bangladesh, Begum Tarana Halim.

Officials from DIT said that for now they know the possible routes till Bangladesh’s border that meets the requirement. The technical feasibility study team had submitted two routes: Sylhet-Tamabil-Shillong-Guwahati-Samdrupjongkhar and Akhaura-Agartala-Guwahati-Samdrupjongkhar.

“We have not made any physical achievement so far,” said an official.

Once the deal is made, officials said, the connectivity will not distort the current arrangement the operators have with their counterparts but complement the existing internet connectivity by strengthening the network reliability and additional bandwidth availability.

If Bhutan is to attract FDIs in ICT and BPO sectors, alternate redundant connectivity is necessary, according to officials. “The demand for third gateway was increasingly felt necessary if Bhutan is to attract investors in IT and IT related businesses. Moreover, incase of disaster, such connectivity would help us to become e-Resilient.”

Lyonpo DN Dhungyel said that the ministry is in discussion with Bangladesh and India to get the additional bandwidth. “We foresee a big drop in the price of Internet after that.”

Younten Tshedup