PLDT announced yesterday that they will return one of its frequencies to the Philippine government in a big boost to the latter’s effort to establish a third player in the Philippines’ telecommunications industry. This is after President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to use the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to audit the company.
The President, through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, thanked PLDT for their cooperation.
“It is clear to the President that the entire nation will benefit from having a third telecom carrier… The President wants the frequency at no cost to the government. That was his instruction,” Roque said.
The 10 MHz frequency was bought by PLDT in 2007 when it acquired CURE, and then used it under the Red Mobile brand. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) wanted the frequency returned to the government in 2011 after PLDT bought Digitel, saying that the company’s 3G frequency is already too big. PLDT agreed but asked for payment in exchange for the frequency, resulting in the delay.
Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) OIC Secretary Eliseo Rio said that the President wanted the frequency returned to the government at no cost. This frequency will be bundled with other frequencies that will be made available to the third telco player.
“More spectrum is ideal of course and will allow any player to compete on better terms with the incumbents. Credit must be given to the DICT and the Palace to get back the CURE frequencies,” PT&T chief operating officer Miguel Bitanga said.
Several companies have expressed their interest to become the third telco player, including Converge ICT and PT&T.
Bidders are required to have an existing Congressional franchise and the capability to spend P500 billion ($10 billion) within 5 years. Smaller companies can partner with larger corporations, either foreign or local. Rio revealed that 32 companies can become the third telecommunications company that will challenge Globe Telecom and PLDT.
A third telco player will most likely be announced by March and be fully operational later this year. The DICT earlier requested to extend the selection of the third player to May, but the President rejected the request and ordered the agency to stick to the original deadline.
Can a Third Player Improve the Internet Speed in the Country?
Mary Grace Mirandilla-Santos, lead convenor of the Better Broadband Alliance, said that a third telco player can do many things to gain customers in the highly competitive market. She added that the company can lower its prices to attract subscribers and offer its services to unserved or underserved areas.
However, Santos believes that the government still needs to do a lot of things to improve Internet connectivity in the country. She outlined the following recommendations:
- Help the smaller telecommunications companies;
- Promote technologies such as fiber optic cables, satellites, and high-tech wireless;
- Build infrastructure in unserved or underserved areas;
- Amend Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines.
Internet in the Philippines is widely deemed as slow and expensive, and experts believe that competition will help solve these problems. They say that fair and open competition is good for both consumers and businesses. Competition encourages performance and innovation among businesses. For consumers, competition means better choices and lower prices.
What do you think? Do you believe that a third telco player will make Internet connectivity in the Philippines faster and better?