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Small telco dreams big, eyes Chinese partners

/ 05:28 AM November 23, 2017

Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T) is looking to invest about $200 million (P10 billion) over three years to expand its fixed broadband business in Metro Manila and key areas in Luzon, its chair Salvador B. Zamora II said.

Zamora described it an initial amount, noting that PT&T had bigger plans, including entering the cellular business— a move that would help it transform into a full-service telecommunications provider that would compete with incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.

“To be a serious telco player, you have to have cellular eventually,” Zamora told the Inquirer in an interview.

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He said PT&T was applying with the National Telecommunications Commission to be allocated a portion of the 700 Megahertz spectrum, prized for its ability to penetrate walls and cover large distances with LTE high-speed mobile internet.

PT&T is seeking the 700 MHz spectrum that was returned to the government, along with other radio frequencies, by PLDT and Globe after both companies bought out San Miguel Corp.’s telco assets in 2016.

“There’s still 20 Megahertz of 700 MHz [with the NTC]. We’re applying for that,” Zamora said.

Zamora said the company’s plans, including its foray into the mobile telco space, would be supported by the entry of a strategic investor.

PT&T is in talks with eight Chinese groups, including state-run China Telecom. The development comes as President Duterte expressed his desire for a Chinese telco to enter the Philippines and break the PLDT and Globe duopoly.

Zamora said there was a big chance for them to partner with a Chinese firm “by the sheer number of the Chinese who are interested to partner with us.”

But PT&T was keeping its options open, he said, adding that they were also in talks with LG Plus, part of the South Korean conglomerate LG Corp.

“We will make a decision based on sound business practices,” Zamora said.

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Zamora, along with business partner Benjamin Bitanga, bought a 70-percent stake in PT&T last August. The company remains under voluntary trading suspension—a status maintained over the last 13 years— and Zamora said they were working to get this lifted.

PT&T was established in 1962 and was once considered a rival of PLDT. It took a hit during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. About a decade later, it filed for corporate rehabilitation due to mounting debts.

Zamora said earlier he was in talks with creditors holding about P12 billion of the company’s debt.

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TAGS: broadband business, LTE high-speed mobile internet, Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T), Salvador B. Zamora II
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