Indonesia Launches Its 36,000 Kilometers-Long Fiber Optic Cable Network 'Palapa Ring'


Indonesia is a vast archipelago consisting thousands of islands. From the most-western part of the country to the most eastern, Indonesia is huge as it sits in three different time zones.

This is why connecting them is difficult.

And here, the country officially started operating its Palapa Ring project (dubbed the "highway in the sky"), with the government expecting the internet backbone to boost trades and bureaucracy, in addition to enhancing public services.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has pinned his high hopes on this project, saying that:

"After we can connect it, market places in regions can also be connected to the national and global marketplaces. This will also boost our industry to increase its competitiveness."
Jokowi - Palapa Ring
Indonesia's President Jokowi (second from right) during the launch of Palapa Ring, in Jakarta

Jokowi has appealed to local administrations to derive benefits from the Palapa Ring to realize greater effectiveness and efficiency in public services. He also appealed to the public, so netizens can become smart internet users and restrain themselves from spreading misinformation and hoaxes.

He believes that Palapa Ring can offer equitable access to technology to all Indonesians., and that it should be used to strengthen Indonesia’s unity rather than as means to send the nation into conflict.

"We must bear in mind that the fast growth of digital technology and connectivity should not be misused to spread hate speech or to share slander, hoaxes, and fake news. This must be prevented."

Palapa Ring is one of the government's priority infrastructure projects, which comprised of a 36,000 kilometers-long fiber optic cable network, aimed to provide access to 4G services across Indonesia's vast archipelago.

The project was previously called the 'Nusantara 21', which began in 1998. But during that time, Indonesia was hit by a huge economic crisis, spiraling the project to a halt, until it was restarted in 2005.

In 2007, Palapa Ring was initiated with a consortium of seven telecommunication operators: PT. Bakrie Telecom Tbk, PT. Excelcomindo Pratama Tbk, PT. Indosat Tbk, PT. Infokom Elektrindo, PT. Macca System Infocom, PT. Powertek Utama Internusa, dan PT. Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom).

The project started in the eastern part of Indonesia.

Like connecting the dots, after the project was finished, the Palapa Ring which incorporates connecting networks, encircles seven island groupings, which include Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Borneo), Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku, and Papua.

Palapa Ring

During the launch of the operations of the Palapa Ring telecommunication network infrastructure project, President Jokowi maintained that the project is the milestone for the country’s communication, and must be used to boost a number of sectors, such as economy, social issues, culture, politics, and governance.

This digital connectivity must be used to elevate people’s welfare and develop the nation.

According to Jokowi, could be done by spreading knowledge digitally to rural areas that could lead to small- and medium-sized enterprises being exposed to the national marketplace, and eventually landed in the global marketplace, among others.

“If it is connected, later on, rural areas will be connected to the national marketplace, and then enter the global marketplace,” said Jokowi.

"That is what we yearn for."

The Palapa Ring Project costs about 20 trillion rupiah, or about $1.5 billion to make.