Modern telecommunications thanks to fiber-optic networks would see some 40,000 villages nationally enjoy telephone and Internet connections, but only if the government's tender is answered.
Information and communication minister Muhammad Nuh said Monday the government would open for tender the ambitious project in Surabaya, East Java on November 10.
He said the project would link the entire archipelago via a fiber-optic network, to be known as the Palapa Ring Project.
The government said it would also set up WiFi infrastructure in each mayoralty and regency using free hotspots in main fields to provide Internet access.
He said the work would start in the eastern part of the country, where telecommunications is severely deficient.
The development of the network in the western part of the archipelago would be subject to further discussion given there is an existing albeit poor network there, Muhammad said.
"The fiber-optic network will use cables set up both undersea and underground and will link all parts of the country," he said.
The project is part of the government's plan to develop information-based communities in the country.
"We're using fiber-optic because it will be too costly to use satellite and its services cannot match fiber-optic," he said.
The Palapa Ring project, first initiated in January 2005 during the first Indonesia Infrastructure Summit, is part of the government's plan to increase telecommunications penetration in the country, which currently stands at 20 percent.
The project involves the construction of a fiber-optic ring connecting Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, and eight network connections, or backhauls.
With an estimated 35,280 kilometers of undersea and 21,807 kilometers of underground fiber-optic cable, the project would connect 33 provinces and 440 cities.
Construction is expected to start in early 2008 and the ring network is expected to enter into full operation in 2011.
Muhammad said the government will also build fiber-optic terminals to support the network, such as in Sulawesi as a gateway to the Philippines, in Kalimantan as a gateway to Singapore, and Papua to Australia.
"Currently, there is a fiber-optic network passing the country's region but it has no terminals, so we cannot fully taken advantage of it," Muhammad said.
If the fiber-optic network tender moves as expected, he said by 2010 or 2011, there would be an Asean-China Super Corridor, with the construction of a communication network between China and Asean member countries.
Muhammad said this would cut down dependency on U.S. Internet connections.
The network would open telecommunication access, including creating some 38,000 new phone connections in 72,000 villages across the country.
In East Java alone, some 23,000 villages have no such connection.
"But the network will not only provide phone access, but also access to other data, such as bank data," Muhammad said.
"It can also support electronic education systems to deal with a lack of teachers in remote areas."
He said the government also planned to add another operator to provide international direct connections outside phone companies PT Telkom and Indosat.
"We hope that in the end, Indonesians will see information technology is not only for the rich.
"Information technology is for everyone and many can benefit from the technology," he said.