MANILA, Philippines—The National Telecommunications Commission has allowed the joint use of frequencies by telecommunication firms, citing the need to look after public interest given rampant complaints on blocked calls or grade of service, drop calls and signal quality of mobile phone providers.
“The primary purpose of the joint use is to improve efficiency and decongest the networks of the telcos to improve their services and comply with the QOS [quality of service] prescribed by the Commission,” the telecom regulator said.
In a press statement, the NTC said it has allowed the following:
1.) Joint use by Globe Telecom, Inc. (Globe) and Bayan Telecommunications Inc. (Bayan) of the frequencies assigned to Bayan in the 1800MHz Band for the provision of cable modem termination system, a component that sends and receives digital cable modem signals on a cable network.
2.) Joint use by Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) and Smart Broadband Inc. (SBI) of the frequencies assigned to Smart in the 800Mhz; 900MHz; 1800MHz and 2100MHz Band;
3.) Joint use by Smart and SBI of the frequencies assigned to SBI in the 800MHz Band;
4.) Joint use by Smart and Digital Mobile Philippines Inc. (Sun) of the frequencies assigned to Smart in the 800Mhz; 900Mhz; 1800Mhz; 2100Mhz Band; and
5.) Joint use by Smart and Sun of the frequencies assigned to Sun in 1800Mhz; 2100Mhz Band.
For the joint use of the frequencies, the NTC has required Globe, Smart, SBI and Sun to pay additional spectrum user fees.
For Bayan, which is under rehabilitation, it is required to seek confirmation from the rehabilitation court for the joint use of frequencies with Globe.
The joint use is also hinged on compliance by these telcos to the service quality required by the NTC.
In case any of assignees of the subject frequencies ceases to operate, the assigned frequencies shall be deemed automatically recalled by the NTC.
Rival telcos are taking opposite views on this sharing of frequency usage. Smart said the joint use of Bayantel frequencies by Globe would be “illegal” while it was welcomed by Globe.
Smart called on the NTC to initiate proceedings to recall the frequencies assigned to Bayantel, citing the latter’s failure to use these frequencies to provide mobile phone service to the public. The NTC should then offer these frequencies to all interested and qualified applicants in an open and competitive bidding process, said Enrico Espanol, head of the Smart’s legal and regulatory department in a letter opposing the application submitted September 28.
Espanol added that the “joint use” arrangement between Globe and Bayantel would lead to “enormous loss of government revenues as the latter would be deprived of income resulting from a competitive auction among interested bidders.” He recalled that a similar anomalous arrangement between Globe and Altimax Broadcasting Co. for the lease of broadcast frequencies to provide wireless broadband service on the WiMax technology had also resulted in large revenue losses for the government.
Froilan Castelo, head of Globe’s corporate and legal services group, said the company was pleased with the decision of the NTC. “If Smart has taken that position, then it should have opposed the move of Bayantel for an extension of their license to provide CMTS services last year. The NTC decision granting the motion of Bayantel was also issued last year and has become final, executory and unappealable. Bayantel is currently under rehabilitation and the rehabilitation court has ordered the preservation of all assets and privileges of Bayantel including its spectrum. This is the reason why the NTC cannot validly recall their spectrum assets,” Castelo said.
On the other hand, Castelo said Globe could not comment on Smart’s complaint on Altimax because this was still under deliberation with the NTC “and therefore subject to sub judice rules.”
In its application to the NTC, Globe argued that the joint use agreement would allow it to address increasing demand for voice, SMS and mobile data services, and for Bayantel to be able to offer mobile telecommunications services nationwide.