By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo
THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is seeking to lower the interconnection rates between telecommunications operators, saying this will benefit mobile phone subscribers as well as the incoming “third” telecommunications player.
In Department Order no. 2 dated May 11, the DICT directed the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to come up with measures that would reduce the interconnection rates for both mobile voice and short message services (SMS) to a “minimum.”
The DICT noted the Philippines has one of the highest mobile voice and SMS rates in Asia. At present, interconnection rates between telecommunications operators are pegged at P2.50 for voice calls and P0.15 for SMS.
DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said the NTC should craft the measures as soon as possible, but declined to say how much the reduction in interconnection fees should be.
“We would not want to wait before a law (that would remove interconnection charges) is passed. This would also help when we name hopefully by August the third player,” Mr. Rio told BusinessWorld in a phone interview on Sunday.
Senate Bill 1636 or the “Lifetime Cellphone Number Act,” which allows users to retain their phone numbers even if they change network providers, was passed on second reading at the Senate. The bill also includes a provision on the removal of interconnection fees.
The House Committee on Information and Communications Technology last month approved its own version of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) bill. A House measure on the reduction of interconnection charges was filed in 2016.
“Affordable interconnection charges would encourage competition and would attract new major telecommunications players by creating a healthy environment conducive for competition and fair level playing field,” the DICT said.
The DICT aims to name a third player at least within the year to challenge the duopoly of PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc.
PLDT spokesperson Ramon R. Isberto declined to comment on the matter until they have studied the proposed measures.
Globe Telecom Inc. Senior Vice-President for Corporate Communications Ma. Yolanda C. Crisanto said they have yet to receive a copy of the DICT order.
Voice calls and SMS messaging are slowly declining as the preferred form of communication among mobile phone users. Many smartphone users have opted for messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Messenger, Viber and WeChat.
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