By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the rules governing the shared use of telecommunications towers will be issued by next week.

In a phone interview on Monday, DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said the “final” version of the common tower policy will be out by “mid-January.”

“Estimate pa lang ’yun (That’s just an estimate),” he added.

Mr. Rio told reporters on Dec. 19 that DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II wants the policy issued as soon as possible as the government targets to put up 3,000 common towers this year.

’Yun ngayon ang inaapura ni Sec. Honasan… Actually may mga comments na nakuha sa stakeholders at pina-finalize na ngayon. Inabutan lang ng mga holidays,” he said when asked for an update regarding the draft policy.

(That’s what Sec. Honasan is rushing to finish. Actually, there are still comments from stakeholders that are being finalized. They got caught up by the holidays.)

Asked if the policy will include a provision that limits the number of companies that will operate common towers, he said the agency is looking at three options. “Well, sa tatlong options nandoon ’yung walang limit, lima lang, and seven.”

(Of the three options, there’s one without limit, five and seven.)

He added that currently there are only four companies that have secured permits to operate such as ISOC edotco Towers, Inc., which is a joint venture of local company ISOC Infrastructure, Inc. and Malaysia’s edotco Group Sdn Bhd; Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc.; LCS Holdings, Inc.; and American Tower Corp.

The concept of tower sharing is being pushed by the DICT to improve tower density, which it said is one of the lowest in the region at 4,000 subscribers per tower. Allowing common towers means more than one telco can use a single tower, thereby increasing the number of subscribers being served by each tower.

The DICT started work on a new common tower policy in 2018 after opposition to an earlier draft presented by Presidential Adviser Ramon P. Jacinto. This version limited the number of companies that may build towers, and barred network operators from building their own, which stakeholders contested.

In a stakeholders’ meeting held in August last year, the department presented initial ideas that it wants to include in the policy, such as a requirement that towers be built within a given radius apart from one another.

Other proposals are to require telcos to submit an annual tower rollout plan to tower companies, and subsidies for towers that will be built in missionary areas. Government support is also guaranteed only for towers that will be built by independent tower companies to facilitate infrastructure sharing.