Can Argentina’s Big Fiber Plans Live Up To Reality?

The Government of Argentina has big plans for its regional fiber network Regego after signing an agreement with Chile last week. By Bnamericas
February 5, 2021

The government of Argentine President Alberto Fernández has bold plans for the country’s national fiber network, known as Refefo, which went live over a decade ago.

In an event promoted by 5G Americas last week, Juan Gnius, Argentina ICT planning and universalization director, called Refefo an “emblematic” project and said that the government was working to transform “Refefo into a regional cable.”

Among other initiatives related to connectivity in the country, the official also said that the government will soon launch a national spectrum and policy plan to encourage infrastructure-sharing.

The Argentine official’s statement about the fiber optic network, currently at 31,259km of active fiber optics, comes in the wake of the country joining the Asia-South America cable that is being championed by Chile and which is expected to connect the Andean country with Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

President Fernández and his Chilean counterpart Sebastián Piñera signed an agreement last week bringing Argentina on board to the cable project. Argentina’s state-run telco Arsat, which operates and manages Refefo, will be responsible for the connection to the cable on the Argentine side.

Connection of Refefo would take place via an internet node in Valparaíso, the future landing point of the cable.

In an article published in Chilean newspaper La Tercera last weekend, Fernández’ chief of staff, Santiago Cafiero, said that the agreement between the countries involves funding of US$452mn, which will be financed by private investors and through loans under international standards.

“The construction of this digital link – to be carried out by Arsat – will allow Chile and Argentina to advance decisively in an agenda of digital integration and telecommunications, but it will also serve to direct internet traffic to and from Brazil – the main market in this area – as well as from Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia to Oceania and Asia,” Cafiero wrote.

In September 2019, Chile’s telecommunications regulator Subtel awarded a feasibility study to Telecommunications Management Group (TMG) and WFN Strategies (WFN) for the project, which is expected to take two or three years to before becoming a reality.

The US$3mn study, which is financed by Latin American development bank CAF, is aimed at assessing the technical, legal, financial and economic characteristics of the project.

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