Chile: Latin America’s new digital hub?

The coronavirus started to significantly affect us in Chile around two weeks after it forced the closure of our offices in Europe. As One Hyphen, our teams have experience working together from opposite sides of the world however, whilst working from home we quickly discovered that the connectivity we’d previously relied on for personal use, struggled under the increased demand. Whilst Chile has a relatively good infrastructure in LatAm terms, we still lag behind Europe and North America for connectivity and speed. Luckily, plans to improve this infrastructure had already been set in motion before the pandemic.

Last year, Chile shared its Digital Transformation Strategy which seeks to position the country at the forefront of the digital world by 2022. Supported by the Chilean government, this initiative has three fundamental pillars: international fiber optic infrastructure, 5G wireless technology and local fiber optic interconnectivity.

The strategy’s primary objectives are to improve public services for citizens and businesses, improve public policies and consolidate the digital transformation as a State policy.

In terms of international fiber optics, there are two major subsea projects that are currently underway. The first is Curie, a Google-owned 10,500 km subsea cable that connects Valparaiso in Chile to the Californian coast in the US. Already successfully installed and tested, Curie is now being connected to Google’s network and is expected to begin transmitting data later this year – powering services such as Gmail, Search, YouTube and Google Cloud.

Further to this, global telecommunication service provider, Sparkle, and networking systems, services, and software company, Ciena, recently announced the upgrade of Sparkle’s next-generation fibers on Curie – providing direct connectivity between data centres in the US and Chile, at double the speed.

The second, more ambitious, project is the 13,180 km transoceanic submarine cable that will connect South America with Asia. The proposed fiber route will initially run from Chile to New Zealand, and then continue to Australia (which recently completed its own submarine linking with Japan). Announced late last month, this marks a significant milestone in the development of Chile’s digital strategy.

Earlier this month, the government also launched its 5G tender process, giving Chile a competitive advantage in the region. 5G has the potential to transform our digital lives. As well as providing ultrafast broadband speeds, it will also support the evolution of our smart cities through improvements in telemedicine, modernisation of the State and the production and distribution of goods and services.

Regarding local interconnectivity, the Fiber Optic Austral (FOA) cable is the southernmost submarine cable in the world and forms part of Chile’s national backbone. It is a clear example of the government’s determination to forge a strong local network and this will be a key asset to close the loop in the digital strategy, as well as providing support for future investment in the technology sector.

Considering all of the above, it comes as no surprise that international investors continue to set their sights on Chile and we look forward to seeing how these projects progress over the coming months!