THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the resolution of a dispute involving the third generation (3G) frequency held by Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. (Bayantel) is moving forward, with a decision now up to the Supreme Court.
“(National Telecommunications Office (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba) reported to me that the contenders for that frequency, of course Bayantel now owned by Globe Telecom, Inc., ABS-CBN Convergence, Inc. and NOW Corp. have agreed to withdraw their petition,” DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told reporters in a chance interview last Wednesday, July 25.
However, on Monday night, July 30, Mr. Rio clarified through a phone interview with BusinessWorld that there was a mistake in an earlier NTC report submitted to his office, and that NOW Corp. is still fighting for its case.
Ang information na binigay sa akin ng NTC, (they have all withdrawn). But it turns out yung NOW [Corp], mukhang hindi pa nagwiwithdraw. So kinukumbinsi pa siguro sila ng SolGen at ng NTC [The information given to me by NTC is that the three companies have withdrawn. But it turns out NOW Corp. has not withdrawn. So maybe the Solicitor General and the NTC are still convincing them],” Mr. Rio said.
The fifth and last 3G slot that the NTC is looking to take over is a disputed frequency awarded to Bayantel by an appellate court in 2010. However, the decision was questioned by the NTC and raised to the Supreme Court, until Mr. Rio said in May that the parties have agreed resolve it out of court.
A settlement is expected by the end of September or early October, around the time the DICT hopes to finalize the selection process for the new entrant to the telecommunications industry, the so-called “third player.”
But Mr. Rio said this does not necessarily mean the 10 Megahertz (MHz) in 3G spectrum of Bayantel will be awarded to the new entrant. He noted that Globe, the company with the most 3G subscribers, only has 10 MHz. Meanwhile, PLDT, Inc.’s Smart Communications, Inc. has 25 MHz, and the third player will be awarded 15 MHz.
“So once we obtain control of Bayantel’s 10 MHz, we have to decide if everything will be given to the third telco. If we do that, Globe will have only 10, the third telco will have 25, PLDT-Smart will have 25. So it’s unfair to (Globe), and we don’t want that to happen also. The distribution has to be equitable,” he said.
The government is currently working on the final draft of the terms of reference to be used for the selection of the third player. Once finalized, this will be issued as a memorandum circular that will guide the oversight committee in the process.
Mr. Rio said the bid documents and guidelines will be issued to the interested bidders by September, with selection to be based on a prospective company’s highest committed level of service. “The higher their commitments are, the more points they get. There’s no discretion on the part of the government,” he said.
He added, the government is looking to name the winning bidder by first week of December. After the awarding, the company will be given 90 days to finalize its organization.
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