So dear yet so far | Inquirer Business

So dear yet so far

So far, so good—both PLDT and Globe could not wait to roll out their newly acquired hot 700-MHz spectrum for high-speed mobile internet connection.

In less than a week after it acquired a huge chunk of the spectrum, Globe announced it had already fired up its first 700-MHz cell site, located at Hardin ng Bougainvillea in UP Diliman in Quezon City.

Not to be outdone, PR guys of PLDT Wednesday boasted through text messages that the company had already rolled out not one but two 700-MHz cell sites, one in Tanay, Rizal and the other at Ecoland in Matina, Davao City.


That city happened to be the operational capital of the country today, being the hometown of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, also known down here as Duterte Harley, which had nothing to do with the fictional character Dirty Harry.


Even before his term would start, Duterte Harley warned the telecom sector, i.e. PLDT and Globe, that they must improve their services, particularly internet connection, or else he would be forced to open the sector to foreign investors.

Our incoming leader did not seem to mind that PLDT has been majority owned by foreign groups, technically, because of the Supreme Court ruling on its use of preferred shares to go around the constitutional limit on foreign ownership.


Media reports immediately quoted PLDT officials as saying the firm would improve its services in four to six months. Globe officials did better than their PLDT counterparts, setting their timetable at three to four months.

It seemed the timing of PLDT and Globe could not have been better in acquiring the telecom business of their lone competitor, San Miguel.

As we all know is that all the last three remaining telcos in the country agreed on a P70-billion deal last week, with PLDT and Globe in effect buying out San Miguel’s interest in telecom, including the much fought-over 700 MHz bandwidth.

PLDT and Globe coined a new term for the acquisition of the 700-MHz spectrum: “Joint use.”

That newly minted term could also be part of a PR strategy to brush off talk of the P70-billion deal as “anticompetition.”

The audience for such criticism was the new antitrust body called Philippine Competition Commission, or PCC, now headed by former Neda chief Arsenio Balisacan.

He had declared the duopoly, i.e. PLDT and Globe, was not prohibited under the law as long as the setup would not create abuses. There— the operative word would have to be “abuse.”

No wonder, PLDT and Globe were hurrying to use their new 700-MHz spectrum that would be their way to offer faster broadband services, thus justifying their acquisition of their lone competitor in the field.

Even the San Miguel board admitted that the firm would take some time to roll out its precious 700-MHz bandwidth, precisely because its competitor would file cases against it, which could take several lifetimes.

But then everybody also agree that, with the bright prospects in the BPO business, estimated to hit more than $25 billion in revenue this year, the entire Philippines would need fast internet connection right away!

We happened to be one of the fastest growing internet users in the world, with some 45 million people consuming some 150,000 terabytes of data every year, according to studies.

Despite talk of anticompetition regarding the biggest ever P70-billion deal, the National Telecommunications Commission, the NTC, approved it on May 27, or before the three publicly listed telcos disclosed it to the Philippine Stock Exchange on May 30.

The NTC nevertheless imposed several conditions on PLDT and Globe, apparently aiming to force them to use the 700-MHz spectrum right away.

From what I gathered, most important of the NTC conditions was that PLDT and Globe must come up with their rollout plans within 60 days, covering at least 90 percent of the cities and municipalities in the country.

But how would the NTC enforce its conditions on PLDT and Globe, considering that, in the recent past, the telecom sector disregarded—with much impunity, one might add—every government move to force them to improve their services?

From what I gathered, the NTC insisted on a provision in the “joint use” contract between PLDT and Globe that, in case of violation of the conditions, the NTC could terminate the deal.

But how could the NTC know if they were actually providing their customers the required high speed of internet service?

I heard the NTC had bought some hi-tech equipment to be able to monitor the speed of broadband services offered by PLDT and Globe. In fact, the NTC had a mind to monitor their broadband speeds 24/7.

In effect, it would force PLDT and Globe to improve their internet broadband service within one year, which was the deadline set by Duterte Harley.

In a TV interview, incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the NTC picked up one of the issues that Duterte Harley brought up during the campaign, the slow internet service.

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But there was a catch in the public statements of Dominguez so far: “We also want [PLDT and Globe] to offer reasonable prices that the people can afford.”

TAGS: Business, connection, economy, Globe, Internet, Mobile, News, PLDT

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