Asia news

E&T reports from it's base in Malaysia.

Taipei airport link due in five years 

Taiwan's Bureau of High Speed Rail says construction of a 65km railway linking the capital, Taipei, to Taoyuan International Airport will be completed in August 2014. Passenger services will begin two months later.

The line will have 22 stations, 15 of them elevated and seven underground.

Bureau spokesman Charles Chen said four tunnels will have to be drilled under the airport. "Protective measures are being taken to ensure that safety of the runways and the control tower is not compromised," Chen said.

Palapa Ring construction starts

The construction of the Palapa Ring fibre-optic project for eastern Indonesia was due to start on 30 November after two postponements. That assumed, however, that the Indonesian government would be able to raise the required financing.

Speaking to E&T in Jakarta, Minister for Communications and Information Tifatul Sembiring said he would push for the project to get off the ground as proposed.

Tifatul declined to say how much funding the government needed to raise for construction to start, but indicated that the Ministry of Finance would be approached to make a contribution.

Three companies - Telkom, Bakrie Telecom and Indosat - remain from the initial seven-member consortium awarded the contract to lay 11,000km of optical-fibre cables starting at Manado through to Ternate, Ambon, Kendiri and Malassar. Telkom is investing US$90m, while Bakrie and Indosat are putting in $30m each.

Four other companies pulled out from the consortium due to lack of funds: Excelcomindo Pratama, Powertek Utama, Macca System and Infokom Elektrindo.

On current plans, construction should be completed in early 2011, providing over 70,000 villages with access to telecommunications services. Most people in east Indonesia do not even have access to a telephone.

The initial plan for the project, to cost a massive $1.6bn, was to have the Palapa Ring project as the backbone of a network connecting 33 provinces and 440 cities across Indonesia via an estimated 35,280km of undersea cable and 21,807km of fibre-optic cable.

It was to involve the construction of seven rings connecting Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, with an eighth to connect them all. Financing has been a major issue.

The project was first initiated in 1997 but on a smaller scale, then shelved due to the Asian financial crisis, which crippled Indonesia.

Telecommunications penetration in Indonesia currently stands at only 21.3 per cent with fixed line a mere 5.86 per cent. Indonesia has a population of 226 million, of whom more than half live below the poverty line.

Inadequate backbone infrastructure has been widely regarded as crippling the country's telecom sector. Many parts of Indonesia currently do not have access to basic communication and those that are connected have some of the world's highest leased line and Internet prices.

Submarine cable bids invited soon

The next move in Malaysia's Bakun hydroelectric power project will see international tenders invited in February to build and lay submarine power cables from Sarawak, where the plant is located, to Peninsular Malaysia.

The developer and owner of the project is Sarawak Hidro Sendirian Berhad. Managing director Zulkifle Osman said the route for the cables across the South China Sea is being worked out. "This is taking more time than expected, as the two submarine cables ranging from 670km to 700km have to run through Indonesian waters," Zulkifle told a news conference in Kuching.

SHSB has appointed a Frankfurt-based consultant to assist the Tenaga Nasional-Sarawak Energy utilities consortium in preparing the tender documents. Zulkifle declined to identify the consultant.

Laying of the first cable is scheduled to be completed by the middle of 2016 and the second just over a year later. Each will have a capacity of 800MW.

The electricity from Bakun will be transferred through Sesco (previously Sarawak Electricity Supply Corp) lines to Bintulu then to Kuching before the hook-up with the submarine cables.

The dam, which has eight 300MW turbines, should be fully operational by 2011. The first turbine is expected to be commissioned in late October 2010.

Zulkifle said the amount of power generated from Bakun initially would depend on demand, as Sarawak currently has an excess of 200MW. Power will be exported to Brunei.

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