SEA-ME-WE 5 break disrupts internet service in Bangladesh

SEA-ME-WE 5 break disrupts internet service in Bangladesh

Internet services in Bangladesh have been partially disrupted since early Saturday morning after the SEA-ME-WE 5 submarine cable was damaged, knocking out two-thirds of the country’s international subsea capacity.

According to a statement from Bangladesh Submarine Cables PLC (BSCPLC) – which is a stakeholder in SEA-ME-WE 5 – the break occurred 440 km from the Singapore end of the cable just after midnight on April 20. Consequently, all traffic between Singapore and SEA-ME-WE 5’s landing station in Kuakata is down.

BSCPLC said that international internet traffic has been rerouted onto SEA-ME-WE 4, which is the only other international subsea cable with a landing point in Bangladesh (in Cox's Bazar, rather than Kuakata).

However, the loss of SEA-ME-WE 5 means Bangladesh has lost close to 1.7 Tbps of international capacity – compared to around 800 Gbps on SEA-ME-WE 4 – which is impacting internet speeds across the country, BSCPLC said.

According to the Daily Star, Bangladesh is still able to access about 100 Gbps of capacity from the west side of SEA-ME-WE 5 that runs to France. It also has another 2.7 Tbps of terrestrial capacity via international terrestrial cable (ITC) licence holders that import bandwidth from India.

The 20,000-km SEA-ME-WE 5 cable connects 17 countries between Singapore and France. Between Singapore and Bangladesh, the cable also has landing points in Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar. No reports of internet disruptions have been reported from those countries at press time. However, each of those countries have multiple international subsea cables to fall back on.

The SEA-ME-WE 6 cable – in which BSCPLC is also a stakeholder, and which will land in Cox’s Bazar – is scheduled to be ready for service in 2025.

BSCPLC said repair work has been initiated, but it would take “two or three days” to repair. Various local media reports have claimed it may take until at least Wednesday for repairs to be completed.

The cause of the break has not yet been revealed. Ironically, BSCPLC had announced last Thursday that maintenance work was scheduled to be performed on SEA-ME-WE 5 between 3am and 4am on Friday morning, which would cause “partial interruptions” in internet services during that time. It’s unclear if the maintenance work is related to the cable break.

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