China Telecom has continued the project it started this January to deploy 3G mobile technology across the disputed Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea, by extending its network to the Nansha Red Reef. The 49-day deployment commenced on 10 May, and saw engineers endure a tropical storm among other difficulties.
Previously, in February this year Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom installed mobile infrastructure on Taiping Island, the largest of the disputed islands. The system, installed at a cost of TWD7 million (USD232,741), was designed to give Taiwanese coast guard personnel posted on the island access to mobile services.
Filipino mobile operator Smart Communications, part of PLDT Group, became the first company to deploy telecoms infrastructure in the disputed territory when it constructed a 2G base station on Pag-Asa Island back in 2005.
The Spratly Islands are believed to be rich in natural resources, including oil, and are also claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei. Further, it is estimated that a third of the world’s maritime trade passes through the surrounding region.