Thu, 15 Apr 2010

The construction of a 50,000 kilometer fiber optic cable that will crisscross the entire archipelago, delivering better and cheaper data and voice services, should be finished by 2012, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tifatul Sembiring said on Wednesday.

So far 40,000 km of the cable, stretching across Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan, has been built, Tifatul said.

The government has tendered the project out to a number of telecommunications companies that are building sections and will retain ownership of their respective parts of the cable.

“We only have to build the remaining 10,000 km to connect the nation,” he said.

The cost of building the rest of the system, mainly in eastern Indonesia, would be about Rp 5.3 trillion ($590 million), Tifatul said.

The fiber optic infrastructure will improve voice and high-speed data traffic nationwide, and will lower the prices consumers pay for telecommunication services, particularly in eastern Indonesia, he said.

Tifatul was speaking on the sidelines of the first day of the Infrastructure Asia 2010 conference in Jakarta, which was reserved for small groups before today’s plenary sessions.

The government is waiting for state-owned PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia to finish construction of the Mataram-to-Kupang section of the cable, which should be completed next year.

After that, links to Ambon, North Maluku and Papua will be built, eventually forming a ring that will connect all the provinces of Indonesia.

The government is also planning to connect the cable to East Timor and run a link from Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, to Darwin, Australia.

“At the [World Movement for] Democracy forum in Bali, Xanana Gusmao, the prime minister of East Timor, requested this [link] from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,” Tifatul said.

The connection to Australia “is important so that we have an alternative overseas connection,” Tifatul said, pointing out that it would provide backup if the main overseas link went down.

“It will prevent trouble, such as when an earthquake in Taiwan occurred in 2006 that cut our connection,” he said.

Currently the country’s main international fiber optic link routes through Singapore to Taiwan and then to the United States.

The new link to Darwin will connect to Sydney and then to the United States.

PT Bakrie Telecom, the company that will build the 1,200 km cable from Kupang to Darwin, said it was still doing preparatory work on the project and it would cooperate with Australian telecom company Telstra and domestic investors to develop the project.

“We will start the project as early as 2012,” said Rakhmat Djunaidi, the director for corporate services at Bakrie Telecom, a unit of the Bakrie group.