THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said the Luzon-wide lockdown being implemented to contain COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) slowed Internet speeds due to a surge in users.

Kung may congestion, magkakaroon ng slowdown ng internet natin at minsan mawawala pa (With congestion, Internet speed slows and disappears sometimes)” Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. told BusinessWorld via phone Thursday.

He noted that the improved services by telecommunications companies have helped cushion the impact of the outbreak on their operations.

“Disruptions are happening, (but) in fairness to the telcos, they have improved. Kasi kung two or three years ago nangyari ito (had this happened to or three years ago), it would have been worse,” he said.

Telco service providers have been seeking to ensure continuity of operations to handle the surge of users working from home.

Mr. Rio noted the Philippines has one of the lowest tower densities in Asia, which means Internet congestion is normal during the lockdown period.

“Our tower density is around 6,000 subscribers per tower when the ideal is only supposed to be not more than 1,000,” Mr. Rio noted.

He also asked the public to be patient in the event of outages caused by congestion.

“Our infrastructure is not enough but the department has done something about it. For example, we started adding common towers this year. But it takes time to build towers. Perhaps, we have added 400 towers all over the country,” he said.

The DICT has been pushing for telcos to share infrastructure since 2017.

The government is hoping 50,000 shareable towers will be built within the next seven to 10 years to close the tower density gap with neighboring countries. — Arjay L. Balinbin