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Gov’t expects 3rd telco player by June

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cellphone tower third player NTC
REUTERS

THE COUNTRY can expect a third major telecommunications service provider to be named by June, even as the government continues to fine-tune selection criteria.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) are now looking at May 24 as deadline for bid submission, officials said in a public consultation in Quezon City on Tuesday, adding that they expect the final memorandum circular on selection criteria published on April 9.

“The submission of bids is May 24, 2018,” NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said in the second stakeholders’ consultation.

“So — worst case — maybe first week of June we will be finished with the exercise.”

Sought for clarification, DICT acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said in a telephone interview that the end of “exercise” refers to “the naming of the third player: around end of May, but that can extend to June.”

The new service provider should be able to accept subscribers by yearend, Mr. Rio told reporters after the event.

The government is also overhauling the draft criteria released for comment last week that included a requirement for interested parties to have a net worth of at least P10 billion.

Wala na ‘yun (That’s gone),” Mr. Rio replied when asked on the net worth requirement.

Ang papalit dyan is ‘yung (What will replace that will be) performance bonds, where they say ‘I’m going to put up these services — this level of services — I assure you and I bet that I can do it,’” he explained. “They are going to be required to put in 25% of their equity in a bank after 90 days.”

The new parameters will put more emphasis on performance metrics like committed minimum coverage of population and Internet speed.

“For the first year, the minimum is 15% of the population. This is not geographical but in terms of the people reach. What would happen is that the bidder for the first year… will cover 20% of the population… cannot go below 15% set by the govt,” NTC’s Mr. Cordoba explained.

“We expect in year seven or eight, the new player would be able to cover 80%.”

He added that committed speed will also have a staggered increase over the same period, starting with 8 megabits per second (Mbps) on the first year of operation and reaching 16 Mbps by the fifth year.

Winthrop Yu, chairman of Internet Society-Philippines, told reporters on the sidelines of consultations that “what the government is trying to do is remove what in elections would be nuisance candidates that don’t have the capacity to deliver results.”

Other criteria in the Feb. 20 draft include not being related to any telecom group with mobile and broadband wireless market share of at least 40% — in reference to PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc.; and not having any “bidder’s liabilities,” defined as “uncontested obligations” to the NTC as of Jan. 31, including supervision and regulation fees, spectrum user fees, penalties, surcharges and interest.

“Hopefully, this week we can have initial draft which we can publish maybe next week, and then 10 days after that, we can have our first public hearing [on the new draft],” DICT’s Mr. Rio said.

The search for a third major telco player was triggered by President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s (PRRD) call for improved telecommunications services. He had wanted the new service provider named by next month.

Sought for comment, Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Harry L. Roque, Jr. told reporters in a mobile phone message: “We may have been overtaken by circumstances.”

“Seems that there will be a delay even if PRRD does not want it,” he said. “But if delay is inevitable, so be it.” — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo