Five major telecoms operators from Taiwan and China have signed a contract to build the first ever undersea cable directly linking Taiwan to the Chinese mainland, the Taipei Times reports. Although the contract is still pending the Taiwanese government’s final approval, it will see the two countries cross the Taiwan Strait with a 220km cable linking the Taiwanese coastal town of Tamshui to Fuzhou City in South-East China.
The TWD800 million (USD27.4 million) project has reportedly been spearheaded by Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan’s largest telecoms company by subscribers, although three other as-yet-unnamed Taiwanese operators have also confirmed their participation in the cable deployment. Chang Xiaobing, chairman of China Unicom was the sole Chinese representative at the signing ceremony, although China Telecom and China Mobile have been widely tipped to join the project at a later date.
The undersea cable project – the first collaboration between the two countries since hostilities began in 1949 – coincides with the rise to power of China-friendly president, Ma Ying-jeou, who took office in May 2008, and promised to boost economic ties with the mainland. Although Taiwan officially lifted the ban on building a direct cross-strait cable in 2009, the subject is still a sensitive issue in Taiwan, and at a parliamentary session on 5 January, opposition lawmakers criticised plans, citing national security concerns regarding China using the cable to monitor Taiwanese telephone calls.