INDONESIA'S first fibre-optic cable manufacturing plant has now been completed.
The official opening of the factory was held in conjunction with Indonesia's first seminar on fibre-optic manufacturing organised by the National Cable Manufacturers' Association and BPP Teknologi, a governmental agency for the assessment and applicationof new technologies.
''We're a developing country with many requirements and, in terms of telecommunications, we have a good opportunity to start with fibre,'' said Mr Sentoso, the president and owner of P. T. Jembo Cable.
He said the firm had begun a feasibility study into the manufacture of fibre cable five years ago and, with a subsequent commitment from the government to use state-of-the-art technology in telecommunications, he went ahead with the factory.
''We have a good opportunity to be ahead of the game,'' said Mr Sentoso.
P. T. Jembo Cable was formed in April 1973 to manufacture low voltage power cable and it had started work on the fibre-optic cable factory nearly two years ago.
Mr Sentoso said US$3 million had been invested in the factory, including the hi-tech manufacturing and testing equipment.
Last year, the Japanese company, Fujikora (which also has interests in the fibre-optics in Japan), took a 20 per cent interest in the fibre arm of P. T. Jembo.
Although the factory was now ready to produce fibre cable (the glass fibre core, itself is manufactured elsewhere), Mr Sentoso said he had no orders.
In the week following the seminar, PT Telekom awarded a US$185 million contract to Siemens and PT Inti.
This was to install 144 digital phone exchanges, radio transmission routes and 836 kilometres of fibre-optic cable.
Despite contracts like this becoming more common - the government has committed itself to building five million new lines over the next five years - there are risks for Mr Sentoso's project.
While the government has hinted at accepting fibre in the new telephone system, there are no figures regarding how much will be needed.
Also, the companies installing the network - those like Siemens - may prefer to use tried and tested cable manufacturers.
But the interest in fibre optics is certainly there. P. T. Jembo, the sponsor of the seminar, was surprised by the number of people at the conference.
''We expected maybe 150 people but, over the two days, we've had 348,'' said Mr Sentoso.
Presentations at the seminar were in Indonesian on the first day and, on day two, technical presentations were made by Corning (fibre manufacturers), Fujikura and Arnhem Technology (equipment suppliers).