By Miguel R. Camus, April 11 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Image Credit to Manila Bulletin

Delays have hit a massive international undersea cable that would have bolstered the Philippines’ internet infrastructure this year.

Eliseo Rio Jr., acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), said the Philippines’ connection of the submarine cable being built by global companies including social media giant Facebook would be finished by the first quarter of 2020 instead of late 2019.

“Their problem was mostly on scheduling the ships. So the first quarter of next year is the next window to complete it,” Rio said in an interview on Wednesday.

Known as the Pacific Light Cable Network, the undersea cable will span over 12,900 kilometers and will link Hong Kong in China and Los Angeles in the United States.

It will connect to the Philippines via landing facilities controlled by the Philippine government, which wants to reduce the dependence on international gateways controlled by PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.

Internet quality will also improve since most of the internet that users experience is possible through massive amounts of data traveling around the globe via submarine cables.

The government in 2017 announced its support for the project by committing to build what it called the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure.

This will allow international cable operators, such as the one being built by Facebook and its partners, to cross Luzon. This will allow data traffic to avoid the Luzon straight, which has a history of undersea cable damage due to earthquakes and typhoons.

The Luzon bypass’ landing stations will be located in Baler, Aurora, and Poro Point in San Fernando, La Union.

The state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority is building the P975-million project while the DICT will operate it for 25 years. Rio said the project would be completed before the end of 2019.

In exchange for the use of the Luzon bypass project, Facebook will provide the Philippine government with an annual capacity of two terabits per second free of charge.

The DICT said the capacity, valued at P4.8 billion a year based on prevailing rates, would be used to power a variety of government initiatives, including its free Wi-Fi project.

Rio said the Luzon bypass facility could also be tapped by other submarine cable companies.