Bangabandhu Satellite-1: A Dream Turns into a Reality

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Published on May 17, 2018
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Pranab Kumar Panday

Since we are now living in the digital era, life has become very onerous without internet and modern telecommunication system that have transformed into an instrument of attaining economic development. Thus, most of the modern and economically developed nations have their own satellite in the orbit.

Like other countries of the World, Bangladesh has attained a tremendous economic growth in the last few years. It has attained most of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals and is working hard to attain the sustainable development goals within the timeline. But, it has a dependency on the other countries for the development of its telecommunication sector. In order to overcome such dependency and bringing a revolution in the telecommunication sector, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina dreamt of having its own satellite in the orbit that would reduce the dependency of the country on other countries in the telecommunication sector. Accordingly, the government initiated the project entitled “Bangabandhu Satellite-1” a few years ago with a costing of around BDT 2,800 crore.

Through the successful launching of Bangabandhu Satellite -1, Bangladesh has entered a new era of telecommunication development. This is one of the most significant achievements of the present government. Even a few years back, someone dared to dream to have a satellite sent to the orbit by the Bangladesh government. But, such an improbable dream has become a reality due to the able leadership of our Prime Minister.

Of course, someone may consider this satellite as an ambitious project on the part of the government of Bangladesh. But, the reality is that this was a timely initiative of our prime minister as she was committed to build a digital Bangladesh by 2021. And this satellite would certainly help us in attaining the goal of establishing a digital Bangladesh. Along with the Prime Minister, her ACT Affairs Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy also deserves appreciation for his commitment to lead a technology-driven transformation in the country.

One may wonder what will be the significance of having our own satellite in the orbit. Before making an attempt to analyse this question, it is important to mention here that Bangladesh is the 57th country that has been able to send its individual satellite in the space. From this perspective, it is a matter of great pride for us as we have outscored many more countries of the world who have not yet been able send their satellite in the space. Bangladesh will be the fourth country of South Asia to be able to send satellite in the space. At present, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have their own satellite in the space.

Basically, Bangabandhu Satellite-1 is considered as a communication satellite that will bring enormous development and uninterrupted telecommunication system in Bangladesh, especially in the case of television and Internet service which Bangladesh usually purchase from overseas. At present, Bangladesh is required to spend annually more than $ 14 million on satellite rent to ensure connectivity of television, radio, telephone and Internet. Thus, through the launching of the satellite, Bangladesh will be able to earn foreign currency by selling broadcasting services to other countries in addition to meeting their internal demands. For instance, the government is planning to sell half of the 40 transponders to serve the TV channels of other countries after meeting its internal demands of local channels with the remaining half.

The country’s internet connectivity will highly be benefited through the launching of the satellite as its network is more effective in ensuring a high level of communication redundancy than the terrestrial network. At present, we are using internet facilities through optical fibre. Thus, the public and private sectors are required to rent bandwidth from different overseas satellite operators in order to meet their demands. Bangabandhu-1 will bring a revolution in providing data services in different hard to reach areas, including islands, hill tracts, etc. Geographically, Bangladesh is positioned in such a location that is highly exposed to risk relating to natural disaster. Thus, the country’s communication infrastructure often gets interrupted when disaster hit the country. Satellite network will play an important role in providing uninterrupted telecommunication services during emergency situations and natural disasters.

It is no denying the fact that we are going to enter a new telecommunication era through the launching of the communication and broadcasting satellite in orbit that will cater to the country’s new value added services in several sectors. This will also stop the drain of foreign currency as well as help the government to earn foreign currency through the leasing of frequencies in the regional market.

The rapid growth of digitisation has brought a massive change in almost all sectors in the country. Apart from digitisation in the service sectors, ICT (Information and Communication technology) market has also grown up tremendously. For instance, the total size of the ICT market in Bangladesh was merely worth $26 million in 2008 while the industry has reached to a figure of $600 million which was really next to impossible in the context of 2008. But, this is not a dream; rather it is a reality now.

We will have to confess that this development has not taken place suddenly; rather all decisions in this regard were taken as part of the concept of Vision 2021 which is considered as a blueprint for placing the country on the road to a digital world. Along with the vision, strong supervision and monitoring system, implementation of practical policies and assiduous efforts have contributed a lot in attaining this objective. Over the last few years the government has also invested an enormous amount in the national budget for the attainment of this growth. For instance, Taka 200 crore was allocated in this sector in 2008 while taka 1,600 crore was allocated in 2017. Thus, the intensity of this growth will definitely be facilitated through the launching of Bangabandhu Satellite-1.

Writer: Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh.