It’s been a few days since the Peruvian telecommunications regulator Programa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Pronatel) sprung a surprise by calling a halt to a tender to take over the operation and maintenance of the national backbone network Red Dorsal Nacional de Fibra Óptica (RDNFO). But two questions still remain to be answered.
Firstly how did the three bidders – Viettel, Dorsal Perú and Fibra Óptica del Perú – fail to comply with the tender process's terms of reference? And secondly, what happens now?
The RDNFO, which links 22 regional capitals and 180 provincial capitals with 13,600km of fibre optics, has already had something of a chequered history. As we reported in January, the network has been a vast drain on government resources, possibly due to the fact that the system was underutilised and required regular funding. This may also have had something to do with an inflexible pricing structure for capacity on the network.
After some disagreements on how to remedy this, the previous operator Azteca Comunicaciones saw the cancellation of its licence in early 2022, although as early as 2020 Azteca had suggested terminating its concession by mutual agreement.
But RDNFO is still evidently seen as a big prize in some quarters. Viettel is a major name in Vietnam, operating mobile telephone networks in Peru under the Bitel brand. It’s not entirely clear which companies are behind the two other bids, but press reports suggest Dorsal Perú involves Israeli satcoms giant Gilat Networks and Peruvian telecommunications company Optical Networks. Fibra Óptica del Perú may be linked to Satelital Telecomunicaciones, which aims to bring fibre connectivity to Iquitos, the Amazonian capital of Peru.
The question of where RDNFO goes from here isn’t easily answered. Rumours of interference with the bidding process haven’t helped and underuse of the RDNFO network (just over 3% according to a story in Total Telecom) still needs to be addressed. However, for the moment, Pronatel itself is operating the network.