PH, Facebook team up for ultra-high speed internet infrastructure project

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16) — The Philippine government is partnering with technology giant Facebook to build an "ultra-high speed information highway" that could be a "game changer" in providing faster, cheaper, and more accessible internet across the country.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Information and Communications Technology Department, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)  launched yesterday the Strategic Engagement and Collaboration to Undertake a Reliable and Efficient Government Internet (SECURE GovNet), PCOO said in a press release.

The project is set to create the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, an information highway that will help address the longstanding problem of slow and inaccessible internet in the country.

The structure, which is set to be built by the BCDA, will be composed of two landing stations connected by a 250-km cable network corridor. It will directly connect Luzon to internet hubs in The United States and Asia, DICT Officer-in-Charge Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said.

Facebook will be the first party to use the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure. It will build and manage a submarine cable system that will land in cable stations on the Eastern and Western Coasts of Luzon.

On Wednesday, Rio, BCDA President and Chief Executive Officer Vivencio Dizon, and Facebook Sourcing Manager Nico Roehrich signed the agreement to build the government's first landing stations under the project.

"In exchange for utilizing the bypass infrastructure, Facebook will provide the Philippine Government with spectrum equivalent to at least 2-million megabits per second (Mbps)," Rio said in the press release.

According to Rio, the 2 million Mbps or 2 Terabyte per second capacity from Facebook "nearly equals" the combined capacity of local internet providers Globe and Smart-PLDT. This would make the Philippine government "virtually a third player" in the telecommunications industry, he added.

SECURE GovNet which comes as the DICT in June, launched a National Broadband Plan aimed at increasing internet speed and accessibility in the Philippines within two to three years.

It is meant to facilitate other government connectivity programs such as the Free Public Internet Access, and National Government Portal.

"It's a game changer. It's going to change the way we communicate in our country, and it's going to alleviate the daily struggles of people with respect to the internet," Dizon said.

The Philippines has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world, according to a mobile network research firm OpenSignal. It has an average download speed of 8.24 Mbps -- or a fifth of the speed of list topnotcher Singapore, which logged 46.64 Mbps.

Aside from this, OpenSignal added LTE availability in the Philippines is at 58.83 percent, placing the country at the 69th spot out of 77 countries in its ranking.

South Korea, Japan, and Norway, which performed best in this category had 4G availability of 96.69 percent, 94.11 percent, and 88.66 percent, respectively.

READ: Report: PH among lowest ranked countries in internet speed, availability

Last October, no less than Chinese billionaire and online Tycoon Jack Ma criticized the slow internet speed during his visit to the country.

He encouraged government officials and entrepreneurs to work together to boost internet coverage and speed in the Philippines.

READ: Jack Ma: PH internet speed 'no good,' calls for stronger govt-private cooperation for faster internet