By Denise A. Valdez

NETWORK providers in the Philippines have an edge against their regional peers to launch fifth generation (5G) technology faster, technology firm Ericsson, Inc. said.

“The Philippines is in a good position from a spectrum point of view,” Ericsson Country Head for the Philippines Martin Wiktorin said in a media interview Thursday last week.

“Normally, spectrum is a limitation… But in the Philippines, the situation is very beneficial,” he added.

Mr. Wiktorin noted that in the country, telco firms PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. are awarded by the government their own spectrum bands. Having these assets readily available allow companies to choose their own timeline for launching any type of network, such as 5G.

“In all other countries in Southeast Asia, the spectrum is not assigned yet. It has to be made available, then it has to be assigned to the service providers. While today, in the Philippines, the service providers already own spectrum for 5G,” Nunzio Mirtillo, Ericsson senior vice-president and head of Southeast Asia, Oceania & India, said.

“So they could launch tomorrow, which is an advantage compared to other countries,” Mr. Mirtillo added.

Last June, Globe Telecom, Inc. launched its 5G network for home subscribers-setting the record as the first to make the technology available in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

Its rival PLDT, Inc. is targeting to follow soon, with a goal of launching 5G to home and enterprise customers by early 2020.

“The technology and the regulatory framework makes that possible. Of course, it’s a decision for the operator when they want to do that. But the environment is very, very good in the Philippines,” Mr. Wiktorin said.

The practice of spectrum allocation is different from country to country. In the Philippines, the government assigns companies their own frequency bands, which cannot be recalled by the regulator without facing a court case. In other countries, the government puts a cap on a telco’s use of spectrum — whether in terms of number of frequency bands it is assigned or the years when one could own it.

“You have spectrum available already today, so the service providers, both Smart and Globe, already have spectrum on the middle band,” Mr. Mirtillo said. “So if they decide to go 5G, they can do it tomorrow. While in other countries, (that) is not available yet.”

5G network is the latest cellular network technology which promises higher speeds with lower latency. Ericsson estimates the technology could open a new revenue stream worth “billions of dollars” for telco firms.

“We are talking about opportunity to grow the revenue by at least 25% to 40%. So it’s big,” Mr. Mirtillo said.