Common cell tower policy due by end-July

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THE GUIDELINES for the government’s common tower policy may be released by the end of this month, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs and Information Technology Communications said.

Presidential adviser Ramon P. Jacinto said his estimated timetable for the release is the end of the month.

“[End of July], that’s my estimate,” Mr. Jacinto said in a phone interview when asked about the release of the guidelines.

The original timetable was for a February release, but Mr. Jacinto said his office has been working to carefully draft the guidelines.

“There are factors to be considered,” Mr. Jacinto said, without elaborating.

Mr. Jacinto announced in January the government policy, which will require current operators to lease cell towers from cell tower companies, instead of building their own cell sites. The policy is aimed at providing better services, and providing a level playing field for the entry of the “third player” into the telecommunications industry. The Philippines has only 16,000 cell sites, and Mr. Jacinto has said that it will need about 50,000 for better coverage.

Incumbents PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. have expressed opposition to the policy.

PLDT Chairman, President, and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan has said the companies should be allowed to continue building cell sites.

Globe legal counsel Vicente Froilan M. Castelo has said that there is “doubtful” legal basis for the policy and added the phone companies are empowered by Congress through their franchises to build sites.

Both telcos have cited red tape as a barrier to building more cell sites.

In February, Globe announced that it was in talks with certain parties to form an independent tower company and divest some or all of its tower assets, to help speed up the build and deployment of cellular towers in the Philippines, and as part of its network expansion and optimization plan.

It has said it is open to partnering with or being in a consortium with competitor PLDT, Inc. for the initiative, but PLDT has said that the company does not see any need to share any of its network assets.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. has said that the common tower policy is attractive for those wanting to join the third player selection. — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo