INTERNATIONAL Finance Corp. (IFC) is providing $8.3 million to EdgePoint Infrastructure Sdn Bhd as indirect equity investment in the telecommunications tower platform’s entry into the Philippine market.

In a press release on Thursday, the global financial institution said the investment — equivalent to around P440 million — would improve the country’s mobile network capacity and create a competitive market.

IFC, a World Bank member with focus on the private sector in developing countries, said the amount is part of a larger investment in digital infrastructure assets across emerging markets managed by affiliates of US-listed DigitalBridge Group, Inc., including EdgePoint.

“This equity investment in EdgePoint marks a significant milestone in digital development in the Philippines, paving the way for more people and businesses to have access to mobile services,” said Isabel Chatterton, IFC regional industry director for infrastructure Asia and the Pacific.

“With the Philippines poised to grow, strong consumer demand and a vibrant labor market will undoubtedly lead to even greater calls on telecom services,” she said. “This investment will help meet future needs, which is vital as digital connectivity is so fundamental to helping ensure people and businesses can flourish.”

The investment involves the acquisition of more than 2,900 towers from the PLDT, Inc., through a sale and leaseback agreement, in addition to the construction of additional build-to-suit towers, the IFC said.

Last week, PLDT closed its first tower deal involving 3,013 telecom towers, or more than half of what is due to be sold, and received about P39.2 billion from the sale.

IFC said mobile connectivity in the Philippines is inadequate largely due to network congestion.

“The country ranks 95th out of 142 countries for mobile internet download speed,” it said.

The country’s network congestion, or the number of mobile subscribers per tower, is also comparable to that of other low-income countries, and is more than three times higher than the average in the East Asia and Pacific region, it added.

Reliable electricity for towers is also a problem, as IFC estimates that just 5% of towers in the Philippines are expected to be located in off-grid areas.

EdgePoint Chief Executive Officer and Founder Suresh Sidhu said the expansion in connectivity would create new job opportunities for the sector.

“The Philippines telecoms sector has tremendous potential, and we look forward to being part of its future,” he added.

IFC said its support and investment “will continue to increase competition within the telecom sector, which will lead to better service quality and more affordable rates.” — Tobias Jared Tomas