The Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) is eyeing an estimated US$150 million alternate submarine cable link that will facilitate direct telecom inter-connectivity across the sub-region.
The four-member countries agreed here recently during the 7th BIMP-EAGA Working Group Meeting on ICT to conduct a feasibility study on the routing and design of the submarine cable project and on terrestrial and submarine cable issues.
The Brunei International Gateway (BIG), a joint venture company in Brunei, will spearhead the feasibility study which will commence this year. The exact total project cost however will be determined upon completion of the study.
The proposed BIMP-EAGA submarine cable dubbed as the BIMP-EAGA Rink is an alternative routing either through satellite, microwave or fiber-optic that aims to facilitate direct interconnection and allow telecommunication services in BIMP-EAGA to expand, connect and diversity networks with the rest of the Asian countries, particularly Singapore and Hongkong.
The proposed BIMP-EAGA submarine cable route will establish connectivity from Borneo Island to Mindanao, the cable link gateway in Southern Philippines.
Specifically, it covers Mindanao in Southern Philippines, Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah and Tarakan via terrestrial in Kalimantan. Potential international gateways such as Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua in Indonesia are also being eyed.
Once established, the rink will open a direct access in the US through Asia American Gateway submarine cable systems.
To prepare for the feasibility study, the BIG will meet with potential partners to discuss technical issues of the project.
The BIMP-EAGA Rink is among the priority ICT projects being pushed by the sub-region's ICT industry players at the 7th BIMP-EAGA Working Group Meeting on ICT held last 01-02 March in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
The working group discussed priority programs and projects on how to improve the telecommunications infrastructure and ICT services in BIMP-EAGA especially in the remote and border areas and create business opportunities in the subregion.
Aside from the EAGA rink, the meeting also endorsed the BIMP-EAGA Cross Border Intelligent Clearance Identity (i-CLID), a cross-border project that provides a solution to facilitate cross-border trade by leveraging on ICT as a tool.
The solution will apply a combination of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and web technology that aims to increase the cross-border trade by facilitating freer movement of goods and services in the subregion.
The i-CLID project shall be undertaken by ZimacSilicon Technologies Sdn. Bhd. (ZST) of Brunei and Sarawak Information Systems Sdn. Bhd. (SAINS) of Malaysia.
Hajah Airah Hj. Adbullah, Chairperson of the BIMP-EAGA WG on ICT and Acting Director of Communications, Ministry of Communications, Brunei Darussalam noted that the meeting marked an important milestone in nurturing private sectors collaboration in the field of ICT industry.
"Private sector participation is the way forward to a speedy ICT development and that the identification of market opportunities will encourage private sector collaboration," Adbullah said.
Eliminating digital divide through increasing interconnectivity is one of the priority agenda being put forward by the Mindanao 2020 Peace and Development Framework, the 20-year peace and development blueprint of Mindanao.
"One of our key trusts in ICT is to eliminate digital divide within Mindanao as well as between Mindanao and the rest of the country and the world, that's why we should formulate a coherent long-term ICT plan within BIMP-EAGA," said Sec. Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Philippine Signing Minister for BIMP-EAGA.
The Mindanao 2020 recommends that the national government's efforts to address the digital divide should be more focused on underserved areas like Mindanao.
The BIMP-EAGA Rink project was among the items discussed and supported by the MinDA Board during a recently concluded meeting in Davao City.
Source: Philippine Information Agency (PIA)