By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Wednesday gave another schedule for the release of the common tower policy.

DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told BusinessWorld in a phone interview that the final draft policy might be made available by February.

“I am no longer involved doon sa (in) policy making. We have an office under Usec. Brady (Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, Policy, Planning and Finance Jose Arturo C. de Castro). Sila ngayon ang gumagawa nito (They were the ones who did this) and we are just also waiting for their results,” he said.

“From what I understand, they have put up some draft and asked for comments [from stakeholders]. They are at that stage now. They have informed us that they will have the draft ready by, matatapos na ‘yung January, siguro by February na (January is about to end, so maybe by February),” he added.

Mr. Rio said earlier this month that the “final” version of the common tower policy would be out by “mid-January.”

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.

In a related development, the third telco player Dito Telecommunity Corp. has updated the DICT on its progress as it has a commitment to roll out its services to 37.03% of the country’s population by July 9, 2020.

In a statement, the DICT said: “Among the updates reported to DICT were tower building activities, secured deals for infrastructure development, construction updates on network operations centers, rollout of crucial infrastructure, as well as projected timetables.”

Dito Telecommunity Spokesperson Adel A. Tamano was quoted as saying: “As we have been assuring the public, we are on track to meet our year-one commitment to the government and to the Filipino people to provide world-class telecommunications services.”

DICT Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II “advised Dito to keep the DICT abreast on all developments as the DICT is looking into ensuring that Dito delivers the promised 55mbps internet speed and the more than 80% coverage of the population within the mandated five-year period,” the department said.

Within the one-year period, the company must also be able to deliver a minimum broadband speed of 27 Megabits per second (Mbps). If it fails to meet these commitments, Dito’s certificate of public convenience and necessity and radio frequencies will be taken back by the government.