Indonesia’s Director of Telecommunications Budi Santoso has announced that two local companies, PT Agela Communications Indonesia and PT Potensi Bumi Sakti, have joined the race to win the rights to construct and operate the USD1.6 billion Palapa Ring fibre-optic project. Previously, three firms – PT Telkom, PT Bakrie Telecom and PT Wireless Indonesia – had expressed an interest in bidding on the project. According to The Jakarta Post, the Palapa Ring project is part of the government’s plan to increase telecoms penetration in the country, which currently stands at around 20%. The project involves the installation of a fibre-optic ring connecting Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua, and eight network connections, or backhauls. The 35,280km of undersea and 21,807km of terrestrial cable systems will connect 33 provinces and 440 cities. Construction is expected to start in early 2008, with the ring network to enter into full operation in 2011.