French Polynesia could share cost of Chile-China submarine cable

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Chile is open to collaborating with other countries to build a 20,000-24,000km submarine cable connecting the South American country with China, and has already received interest from French Polynesia, according to telecoms watchdog Subtel head Pamela Gidi.

Last year, Subtel carried out a pre-feasibility study with Chinese telecoms equipment supplier Huawei, which revealed three potential routes for the so-called Transpacific Cable: Valparaíso-Juan Fernández Islands-Easter Island-Auckland-Sydney-Shanghai; Valparaíso-Juan Fernández Islands-Easter Island-Tahiti-Shanghai; and Punta Arenas-Auckland-Shanghai.

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But as the ambitious infrastructure project would cost an estimated US$550-650mn, Chile is interested in sharing the cost.

"We're looking at the routes and at governments that might potentially be interested. We're looking at ways to aggregate demand in order to be able to add other countries on either side of the cable," Gidi told BNamericas.

"We've received interest from French Polynesia to share the cost of this major project."

Former Subtel head Rodrigo Ramírez told BNamericas in October that the authorities were looking at creating a hub, factoring in demand from Argentina and Brazil and other countries.

Subtel has said that while most content consumed in Latin America comes from North America and Europe, there is increasing demand for content and latency from the Pacific side.

Gidi also welcomed news this month that China Telecom has expressed interest in investing in the country but said the company had not made it clear in what area of the industry the company will invest.

FOA

Chile has already embarked on one major fiber project – Fibra Optica Austral (FOA) – almost 4,000km of submarine and terrestrial fiber connecting the remote south.

Chilean telco CTR, in association with Huawei Marine, won the contract for the submarine part and one of three terrestrial stretches. The companies will receive 52.7bn pesos (US$86mn) in subsidies.

In March, Subtel launched a tender for the two remaining terrestrial stretches, connecting the Los Lagos (X) and Aysén (XI) regions, which were originally not awarded as the bidders failed to meet the technical criteria.

Gidi said that five or six offers have been received this week, but did not give a date to award the tender. The

CTR and Huawei won their contract with a bid of US$85mn. The entire cost of project is US$100mn. Subtel has said the subsidy for the terrestrial stretches has been increased by 20%.