Snapshot: Chile's booming fiber optics infrastructure

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, February 06, 2020
Snapshot: Chile's booming fiber optics infrastructure

Chile's spending on fiber optics projects is booming, opening opportunities for cable providers, technology developers and systems integrators. 

One driver of the growth are the massive high-speed network projects underway in the country, particularly the ones aimed at serving the domestic market.

Such is the case with the Fibra Óptica Austral (FOA) and the Fibra Óptica Nacional (FON) fiber backbones. Together, the two will use 14,000km of fiber cables. The former, to connect the far south of the country, has works close to completion while FON works are still to begin.

International submarine networks are also behind the demand for fiber, such as the planned TransPacific South America-Asia connection that will include Chile and is expected to be 24,000km long.

Then there is Google's US-Chile Curie system, which in the near term is projected to connect to Google’s datacenter in Quilicura, Santiago. 

Google is also planning a second Chilean datacenter, which could mean more fiber to connect it. Construction is due to begin in June and the center will have a lifespan of 28 years.


Chile has also seen significant increases in corporate and residential fiber internet, but penetration remains relatively low and therefore there is still a lot of room for growth.

Overall, there were 3.43mn fixed broadband connections last September, up 7.1% year-over-year, according to the latest stats of telecom regulator Subtel. Nearly 1mn, or 26.5% of the total, corresponded to fiber optics internet, a jump of 55% in the period.

Chile’s leader in FTTH/B is Movistar, accounting for 52% of all subscriptions, Subtel’s data shows. But other carriers such as Mundo Pacifico and Telsur are gradually catching up as demand intensifies.

New players are also entering the fray. 

Traditionally a mobile operator, WOM announced this week its entry into the fixed segment with fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) pilots in Santiago. The company activated the service in the Ñuñoa neighborhood and said it will assess costs and the feasibility of the operation. 

In a recent report on the company’s mobile business, Fitch said WOM "has executed a successful [mobile] market entry" and demonstrates a strengthening business profile as it seeks to deleverage.

"Fitch expects WOM to deliver following a dividend recapitalization, as the company moves from a challenger to an established player," Sul Ahmad, Fitch’s associate director, said in the report.


Because optical cables are way more delicate than copper networks, break-ups and disruptions are harder to prevent.

Subtel reported a temporary double cut of optical fiber on Wednesday that affected fixed and mobile services – fiber also connects the antennas – of both Telefónica's Movistar and WOM from O'Higgins region in central Chile to Aysén in the south, where the Pacific cable service also presented a problem, according to the reports.

According to research firm Idate and the Fiber Broadband Association, the number of FTTH and fiber-to-the-building subscriptions in Latin America grew 15 times between 2012 and 2018.


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