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Chile's far south fiber project to fire up in October

Bnamericas Published: Friday, May 31, 2019

Chile's flagship fiber optic project Fibra Óptica Austral (FOA), which will connect the country's far south, is due to come online in October once the terrestrial cables are laid, according to telecom regulator Subtel.

This week, President Sebastián Piñera marked the the completion of the 3,000km submarine cable connecting Los Lagos, Aysén and Magallanes regions, with landings at the town of Caleta Tortel and the city of Punta Arenas.

A contract for the submarine cable and the terrestrial connection for the Magallanes region was won in October 2017 by a consortium led by Huawei Marine, which requested a state subsidy of US$85mn that came from the universal services fund CDT.

Last week, transport and telecommunications ministry MTT awarded the tender for the terrestrial cable contracts for the Los Lagos and Aysén regions to Silica Networks with a state subsidy of 6.14bn pesos (US$8.8mn), which are due for completion in October.

Piñera has vowed to increase investment in telecommunications infrastructure by 30% per year to US$2bn by 2022. According to government statistics, 44% of Chilean families do not have fixed internet access and in 200 communities less than 20% are connected.

FOA is seen as a central part of Chile communications and economic growth strategy, opening up three isolated regions that make up 30% of Chilean territory, to potential development.

Chile is also currently sounding out the possibility of building a trans-Pacific submarine cable connecting Latin America to Asia.

Speaking during a ceremony in Los Lagos capital Puerto Montt to mark the landing of the submarine cable, Piñera said his government seeks to establish the country as a digital hub.

The hub project consists of three main drivers. The first is to establish minimum internet speeds, build underground cables, reduce mobile interconnection rates and eliminate roaming charges.

The second aim is to facilitate the deployment and investment in infrastructure such as FOA and 5G and the third aim is to narrow the digital divide, link up all schools, double the number of Chilegob WiFi hotspots and roll out digital TV.

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