Southeast Asia is on the path to becoming a US$1 trillion digital economy by 2030, fueled by robust double-digit e-commerce growth over the last 12 months, according to the annual e-Conomy SEA Report by Temasek.

The bullish digital growth prospects in this part of the world have generated substantial interest among hyperscalers, says Gary Ignacio, vice president and head of Strategic Business Development at PLDT Enterprise to DCD.

This is especially true for the Philippines, which recorded a 93 percent year-on-year growth in terms of its Internet economy. And with Internet users projected to reach 90 million by 2025, there is growing interest to set up a local presence or deploy cloud regions in the Philippines to seize the market opportunity, he says.

A strategic location

But why establish an in-country presence given the global reach of the Internet? Ignacio ticked off several reasons such as cloud performance, access latency, and competitive market price as major discussion points for going to market within the Philippines. There is data sovereignty and regulatory rules to consider, too.

“[The Philippines] offers a strategic location to host content and transit data traffic across Southeast Asia and the bigger Asia Pacific region. There are about 16 cable systems that we have already invested in. We are also adding four, maybe even five over the next three years.”

Ignacio highlighted the Jupiter subsea cable system, which establishes a trans-Pacific connection between the Philippines and the US as one example. Others, such as ADC and the Apricot cable systems are slated to go live within the next “two to three years” to further bolster Inter-Asia connectivity.

To support growing connectivity requirements, PLDT is also building new cable landing stations to complement its existing three: “We are adding at least another three more cable landing stations, which will be ready in the next few years. That creates more resiliency options for prospective hyperscaler customers.”

Going hyperscale

PLDT currently has 10 purpose-built data centers that are already operating close to full capacity, both in terms of space and power, notes Ignacio. To meet expected demand by cloud players and other hyperscale customers looking to expand into the Philippines, PLDT last year announced plans to build the largest data center in the country.

“We are eyeing [the new data center] to go commercially by 2023. We have engaged global consultants in its design to ensure that it conforms to global standards. We are also incorporating the latest hyperscale design considerations in it.”

According to Ignacio, the hyperscale facility will be the first of a series of data centers with a total power requirement of 100MW, and over 9,000 sq m of data halls.

Crucially, Ignacio noted that the Philippines Government has recently classified hyperscale data centers as a key industry sector. This is a major win for the industry, he says, as it identifies hyperscale facilities as a priority area for investments and comes with various tax breaks and government incentives which PLDT intends to leverage.

With its combined subscriber base of about 80 million Filipinos accessing the Internet through its wired and wireless networks, trusted brand, and rich ICT solutions offered through PLDT Enterprise, PLDT is ready to embrace the digital future in the Philippines, summed up Ignacio.