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Chile's telecoms regulator Subtel and Chinese telecoms infrastructure giant Huawei have signed an agreement to carry out a technical pre-feasibility study on building a Pacific submarine cable connecting the two countries.
The agreement was signed by Subtel head Rodrigo Ramírez and Huawei Chile VP Dong Xiaozhou (pictured)
"This is the first move towards the building of a China-Chile fiber optic cable. With this prefeasibility study we are going to analyze potential routes and cost," Ramírez said in a statement.
Work on the study will begin immediately and coincide with a visit by Ramírez to China this week.
A spokesperson for Subtel told BNamericas that the study did not mean that Huawei or even a Chinese company would definitely build the cable, but that the options were open and that interest had been expressed by companies from other nations.
However, the idea behind the project is for it to be a public-private partnership.
The notion of building a trans-Pacific fiber optic cable link first came to light in February 2016, when Chile's former Subtel head Pedro Huichalaf and China's national development and reform committee VP Lin Nianxiu signed an ICT MOU during a visit of a Chilean public/private delegation.
Patricio Soto, telecommunications research manager with IDC Chile, told BNamericas that while there is every intention for the project to come to fruition, the fact that Chile will see presidential elections this year could potentially lead to it being delayed or abandoned.
In terms of demand, "from a practical point of view, the construction of a submarine cable from China to Chile would not have a major impact on Chile's connectivity,
"While it would give Chile a third international access point and a direct link to Asia-Pacific, we are currently well covered in terms of infrastructure."
Huawei has been progressively building its relationship with the Chilean government.
In November, Chile's government signed a technological transfer MOU with Huawei to build an innovation center, which coincided with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the South American nation.
And in May last year, Huawei signed an agreement with Chile to build the first datacenter in Latin America designed specifically for housing data collected from space.
Huawei has also expressed interest in participating in Chile's relaunch of a tender to build a fiber optic cable connecting Chile's deep south. The auction was abandoned last year due to a lack of interest.