State-owned telecom firms in China are developing a $500 million undersea fiber-optic internet cable network to compete with a similar US-backed project, according to four people involved in the deal. The proposed EMA (Europe-Middle East-Asia) cable would connect Hong Kong to China's island province of Hainan and connect to Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and France.

According to the four sources, China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom are planning one of the world's most advanced and far-reaching subsea cable networks in a bid to rival the US in their ongoing tech war. The EMA cable is a direct competitor to the SeaMeWe-6 cable under construction by US firm SubCom, which connects a similar route.

The cable, which will cost $500 million to complete, will be manufactured and laid by the Chinese cable firm, HMN Technologies. Sources familiar with the development revealed that the firm will receive subsidies from the Chinese government to build the subsea cable. Chinese telecom firms are expected to own more than half of the new network, with foreign partners being courted to take ownership of the remaining network.

Contracts for the EMA cable project are expected to be finalized by the end of the year, with the cable going online by the end of 2025. 

The Chinese carriers reportedly signed separate MoUs earlier this year with four telecoms, namely Orange, PTCL, Telecom Egypt and Zain Saudi Arabia, with talks also being held with Singtel.

Other countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are currently being scouted as prospects to join the subsea-focused consortium.

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