Cheaper rates and better access to the internet will be felt by yearend with the rollout of additional open access fiber optic cables in the country.
This was the projection of Hendrick Huang, executive deputy managing director of Philippines Fiber Optic Cable Network (PFOCN), the Philippine subsidiary of Singapore-based HyalRoute Group.
“As of today, we have completed over 9,000 kilometers of backbone fiber network nationwide. With 5,000 kilometers that are ongoing plus the accelerated rollout of an additional 2,000 kilometers, our total fiber network would reach around 16,000 kilometers by the end of 2021. For sure, people will have cheaper, better and more stable internet access in more rural places, as well as more choice in terms of operators with the entry of a third [telco] operator,” Huang said.
Under a memorandum of agreement inked between PFOCN and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Singapore-based company is allowed to engage in the installation and maintenance of optical fiber network as well as other activities that will help spur the government’s National Broadband Program and free public WiFi project to reach unserved and underserved areas.
Aside from providing a backbone to the government’s digitalization program, PFOCN will also help pave the way for operators to launch 5G network, cloud service, Internet of Things (IoT), AI services and other innovative technologies at prices that will be more affordable to Filipino consumers and Philippine companies.
The Singapore-based company’s investment in the north of US$3 billion for an estimated 60,000-kilometer fiber cable network project described by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez as “the single most extensive cable network project in the Philippines to date.”
According to Huang, the company has already invested $500 million and is set to accomplish the first phase of the 10-year project that will be staggered from 2019 to 2028.
The rollout plan of PFOCN is to finish 30,000 kilometers between 2019 to 2024, and despite the pandemic and the lockdowns that have placed limitations on mobility, the company executive is confident that they are on track with plans and timelines.
“The first phase would be 20,000 kilometers, and I’m very confident that by the first half of next year, we would have finished the construction. That’s only three years, and it’s actually faster than we have planned,” Huang said.
While PFOCN regards the country’s shift towards digitization as less aggressive compared to its Southeast Asian peers, Huang emphasized that the shifts in government policy vis-à-vis digital transformation and infrastructure industries through the “Build, Build, Build” program are positive developments.
He also points to the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology back in 2016 as evidence of the government’s strong commitment to improve the industry, particularly telecommunications.
Secretary Lopez sees the country’s digitalization as a game changer that will transform the way people live, work and do business, with goods and services to be produced through the application of advanced manufacturing techniques, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, IoT and 3D Printing to boost productivity. “It will also define, more importantly, what type of goods and services will be produced in an increasingly digital and connected world,” the Trade Secretary said.
According to DTI Undersecretary and Board of Investments (BOI) managing head Ceferino Rodolfo, the PFOCN project which was granted a pioneering status reaffirms BOI’s commitment in promoting and driving strategic and socially relevant investments in the country.
“We have been assisting PFOCN and other similar strategic projects that will not only provide new investments and employment to our countrymen, but also impact economic development and support the government’s digitalization goals,” he said, adding that similar to other strategic projects, an Account Management Team composed of relevant government agencies was created to ensure the immediate delivery of services in the course of project implementation.
“With our rollout in the near future, I would say, in the next one to two years – the entire industry will be revolutionized, and disrupted in a positive way. People in Mindanao, in Palawan, in Baguio, Tuguegarao, other middle level cities like Tarlac – all those cities will have internet access that is on par or close to what we have in Manila right now,” Huang concluded.
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