When we put Indonesia into global context, then we quickly see there is a problem for Indonesia. Based on the Speedtest Global Index, Indonesia ranks 97th in terms of mobile download speed, and 127th in terms of fixed broadband download speed.

So, despite some significant expansion made by the Indonesian government (which includes the Palapa Ring project), state-owned companies (such as Telekomunikasi Indonesia, better known as Telkom Indonesia), and big private sector players (such as Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison and XL Axiata) over the past two decades, there are a number of challenges that are being faced and that have been undermining quicker progress.

The biggest challenge is Indonesia’s enormous size and its geographical composition (consisting of thousands of islands that are separated by waters or seas). Moreover, there are various remote regions where high mountains or cliffs and dense tropical forests make it extremely challenging to lay down a network of terrestrial fiber optic cables. And as the country comes in the shape of an archipelago, Indonesia relies on submarine fiber optic cables. However, placing cables in the water isn’t without risks too as there are many waters where there is a lot of human activity (such as fishing, anchoring, and dredging) as well as seismic activity (earthquakes).

And as the Internet infrastructure is more complex in a country like Indonesia where the population is scattered across this enormous archipelago, it also becomes much more expensive to access the Internet. Based on research conducted by US network and security products provider Cloudflare, the cost of bandwidth in Indonesia is 43 times more expensive than in North America or Europe, and is also multiple times more expensive than in other countries in Asia.

Sarwoto Atmosutarno, who is member of the special staff to the Indonesian Minister of Communication and Informatics, recently said that “[…] in terms of connectivity, currently, Internet coverage and speed in Indonesia still need improvement. Several challenges should be overcome in improving Indonesia's Internet connectivity, such as the high cost of deploying fiber optics, the distribution of fiber optics concentrated in major cities, and obstacles in terms of licensing.”


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