AFTER OPPOSITION from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), stakeholders and the Senate, Presidential Adviser for Economic Affairs and Information Technology Communications Ramon P. Jacinto said he is now open to adding more tower providers in the draft common tower policy.
Mr. Jacinto said after a Senate hearing on the common tower policy on Thursday that he is now open to adjusting the draft policy to welcome up to four registered tower providers to serve the telecommunications industry.
“I am open to more than two. Globe (Telecom, Inc.) and Smart (Communications, Inc.) cannot participate because they caused the problem… Probably up to four (tower companies),” he told reporters after the hearing.
He noted that if incumbents Globe and Smart are allowed to build their own towers, they would not choose to lease from the tower providers.
“They will only use their towers, then we’re back to the same problem,” Mr. Jacinto said.
The DICT and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) organized in September a public hearing on the draft shared telco infrastructure policy formulated by Mr. Jacinto, which restricted the building of towers to a maximum of two tower companies in the first four years.
Mr. Jacinto said the absence of a cap on the registered tower companies may make the industry unviable.
“If you want five or six, why not a hundred? Why not 200? And then it’s going to get rowdy and nothing will be viable,” he said then.
DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr.’s position was to have no cap, noting at least 50,000 towers are needed to improve the telco services and bring them up to par with Vietnam.
He also said disallowing Globe and Smart to build their own towers would effectively violate their legislative franchises, which authorize them to engage in such activities.
As of last week, the government has signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with five common tower providers: ISOC Infrastructures, Inc. from the Philippines; ISON ECP Tower Pte. Ltd. from Singapore; IHS Holding Ltd. (IHS Towers) from Nigeria; edotco Group Sdn Bhd from Malaysia; and China Energy Equipment Co. Ltd. from China. American Tower Corp. is also expected to sign a similar MoU this week.
These MoUs, under which the DICT undertakes to help the tower builders obtain permits, are expected to help shape a revised shared telco infrastructure policy that considers comments from stakeholders.
Smart Communications is the wireless unit of PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez