Thu 28 Oct 2004
Filed under: News,Regional
At the GMS (Great Mekong Subregion) information superhighway conference held in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China Telecom signed a preliminary agreement about building an unified information superhighway platform in GMS with its counterparts in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
According to the agreement, the largest fixed-line telecom carrier in China will firstly build a complete telecom infrastructure network covering countries along GMS, and then develop a variety of telecom businesses in accordance with economic development state in the region.
A top executive of China Telecom said in an interview that the company was now in talks with telecom carriers in these five countries, expecting to strike a common agreement concerning how to connect their optical fiber cables together as early as possible.
As a matter of fact, China Telecom showed willingness for the project from the very beginning.
As early as last year, Li Xinhua, vice governor of Yunnan Province, promised Zhang Jiping, vice general manager of China Telecom, that Yunnan provincial government would actively support China Telecom to build YunnanÂ into an information communication hub and economic information platform between China and Southeast Asian countries. China Telecom will extend its optical fiber cable to boundaries with Burma, Laos, and Vietnam, waiting to connect with cables in these countries.
However, critics remarked that China Telecom launched the move for the political purpose, rather than economic purpose. Most countries along GMS are less developed, and it is of no real significance to build a so-called information superhighway there, let alone making profits in short term.
To spur the economic development in the region, Asian Development Bank once planned to set up a set of international optical fiber cable systems there, including 13 backbone transmission lines and a inter-connection line, which would link Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, and Yunnan China.
But because of the unbalanced economic development in these countries, the implementation of the project was completely dependent on capitals from Asian Development Bank. Before China Telecom put forward the plan to build
a complete telecom infrastructure network there, Asian Development Bank just finished a small part of the project.
Nevertheless, China Telecom holds a completely different viewpoint. Although countries along GMS can not compare with China in terms of economic development, their GDPs (Gross Domestic Products) has increased to 5% to 6% in recent years. In addition, telecom infrastructure markets
in these countries are just in the infancy, and this is a big opportunity for China Telecom. With the gradual development of economic relationship between China and these countries, demands for trans-regional telecom
services will rise definitely.
Lei Zhenzhou, a director from China’s Ministry of Information Industry, said that the establishment of a telecom network along GMS was not to respond to Chinese government’s “anti-poverty project”, but set up a commercial telecom platform. Network construction parties involved in the
project will share costs of the project afoot in proportion to the number of networks they possess.
According to the previous negotiation result, China Telecom will be mainly in charge of connecting independent telecom networks in these countries, forming a complete infrastructure network. In light of network distributions, these countries will assume construction expenditures by
themselves. If some countries can not afford the expenditures, Asian Development Bank will extend loans with low interest rate to them.
China Telecom stressed that it was only to link its networks with these in other countries. But some insiders noted that due to political disturbances, some countries such as Laos and Cambodia had no money to build optical fiber networks at all, and in this way, China Telecom could tap into these countries’ telecom market which had not been developed.