Chinese government-backed telecommunication companies are working to develop a $500m undersea internet cable to rival a similar US-backed project, reported Reuters.

To be named EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia), the project would connect Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

It is being seen as a sign of escalating tech war between the two economic giants and may threaten global internet infrastructure.

Four people familiar with the development told the news agency that China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom), China Mobile and China United Network Communications Group (China Unicom) have been tasked with mapping out the proposed subsea cable network.

The cable would connect Hong Kong to the Chinese province of Hainan before making its way to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and France, they added.

China’s HMN Technologies will manufacture and lay the cable, which would cost about $500m to complete.

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Notably, more than 95% of all international internet traffic travels through submarine cables.

The EMA project will rival another cable, called SeaMeWe-6 (Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-6).

US-based company SubCom is constructing SeaMeWe-6, which will also connect Singapore to France and pass-through Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and half a dozen other nations.

HMN Tech was first chosen to build the SeaMeWe-6 cable by the consortium, which originally consisted of telecom providers from numerous countries in addition to China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom.

Following pressure from the US government, the contract was awarded to SubCom last year, the news agency said.

According to the four sources, China Telecom and China Mobile withdrew from the project after SubCom was awarded the contract and they, along with China Unicom started preparing the EMA cable.

The three state-owned Chinese telecom firms are anticipated to hold more than half of the new cable, although they are also entering into agreements with foreign partners, the sources added.

According to the sources, the Chinese carriers inked separate memorandums of understanding with four telecoms this year that include Zain Saudi Arabia, a division of the Kuwaiti company Mobile Telecommunications Company, Telecom Egypt, Pakistan Telecommunication Company, and France’s Orange.

The Chinese firms have also held talks with Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), they said, adding other nations in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are also being contacted to join the consortium.

The Chinese companies aim to complete contracts by year’s end and launch the EMA cable by the end of 2025.