SENATORS on Tuesday questioned the capability of the provisional third player, Mislatel Consortium, to deliver services committed to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
In its bid, Mislatel committed to provide an average minimum broadband speed of 27 Megabits per second (Mbps) in its first year of operations and 55 Mbps on its second. The consortium also pledged to have a population coverage of 37% in its first year and 84% coverage over a five-year period.
During the second Senate hearing on the third telco selection process, Senator Francis G. Escudero said it takes a longer time to set up the infrastructure needed by Mislatel to fulfill its commitment for a 37% coverage in the first year of its operations.
“I know for a fact that it takes about 18 months, more or less, if you’re lucky, to put up a tower…. It takes that long to get local permit, negotiate with the owner of the land, whether sale or lease, come up with a final amount… How are you going to carry out the 37%?” he said.
Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the Senate comittee on public services, also pointed out that it took Smart Communications, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. 20 years to reach current Internet speeds.
In response, Udenna Group Vice-President for Corporate Affairs Adel A. Tamano expressed confidence that Mislatel would fulfill its commitment with the backing of its partners and the innovative technology being brought in.
“We’re not entering this without a clear business plan and a clear roll out plan… On the roll-out, it is very true that these are very aggressive numbers. But we believe that we can achieve this. If we didn’t, we would not have submitted our roll-out plan or our bid,” he said during the hearing.
“Yes, 18 months may be, in the past, the time needed to set up these facilities but with the proper partners, we have the motivation to really comply,” he added, noting that the consortium is looking for partners that have a backbone the consortium can leverage.
As for its broadband speed commitments, Mr. Tamano said the consortium has ”the latest technologies” including plans to bring in a fifth-generation (5G) home broadband service at the same time China is rolling out its own network.
“We are not burdened by obsolete technology. We will be bringing in new technology, the latest innovative technologies. In fact, we want to put in 5G. We are in talks that perhaps the 5G five-year roll-out in China will be (implemented) at the same time in the Philippines,” he said.
National security concerns were also raised during the hearing due to the presence of a foreign entity in the winning consortium.
The government declared the Mislatel Group of China Telecommunicatons Corp., Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., as well as Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc. (Mislatel) as the telecom industry’s third player.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., who also sits on the oversight committee on the selection of the third player, said the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) will perform a background check on the Mislatel consortium during the 90-day evaluation period.
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. added that safeguards are also in place to ensure the protection of the third player’s customer data.
He said the third player would have to comply as well with the current practice, observed by Globe Telecom, Inc. and Smart Communications, Inc. to conduct a third-party cyber-security audit.
“Mislatel consortium will have to do the same, a third-party that will assure the government and the people that their network will never be used or will never be the source of national security breaches,” he said.
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