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Hello, submarine: Full speed ahead for Converge’s broadband dream

/ 04:49 AM September 16, 2019

Fiber internet company Converge ICT Solutions Inc. is starting work on its $70-million domestic submarine cable project, a key part of its plan to launch broadband services across the Philippines.

Converge ICT founder and CEO Dennis Anthony H. Uy told the Inquirer the firm would tap Malaysia’s Optic Marine to install the cables while Chinese firm Huawei Marine would serve as project manager. The equipment supplier would likely be an American or European firm.

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Breaking up the project into several components could also address geopolitical considerations, with the United States cracking down on Chinese businesses and technology companies amid a broader trade dispute.

Converge ICT’s 1,300-kilometer domestic undersea cable project will link Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao via 20 landing stations.

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“We’re starting the project already,” Uy said. “Time is gold.”

The project will bolster Converge ICT’s $1.8-billion bid to bring its fiber internet service to the whole country by 2023.

Miles Tonn Chua, chief operating officer of Converge ICT subsidiary Metro Works, said last week the domestic cable would take about 18 months to complete.

Converge ICT recently received a $250-million funding boost from United States-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Uy said another $800 million via local banks was on standby for added funding.

Uy said the goal was to reach millions of customers and a market share of about 30 percent in the next few years. The company, which is close to completing its Luzon backbone, has a half a million subscribers today. The figure could double to one million by next year, Uy said.

Moreover, Converge ICT is in talks to link two to three international submarine cables, which are crucial components of the world’s internet infrastructure.

Uy said one of these cables would connect the country to nearby neighbors such as Singapore and Indonesia all the way to the United States.

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“In 24 months, we will have [the first] one,” Uy said.

He said the new cables would help the company bring down the cost of fixed-internet in the Philippines. It will provide consumers with another option, given that telco giants PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom currently control most of the country’s international internet gateways.

Price comparison service Cable.co.uk said 2018 broadband costs in the Philippines stood at a monthly average of $3.29 per megabit. This, compared to $0.03 in Singapore, $0.33 in Thailand, $0.91 in Indonesia and $2.67 in Vietnam.

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