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PT&T sues NTC over 3rd telco bid rules

/ 05:01 AM November 07, 2018

Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T), a fixed broadband service provider, filed a legal case against the National Telecommunications Commission’s selection rules in a last-minute effort to be allowed to join the government’s third telco initiative.

PT&T yesterday filed a so-called petition for declaratory relief in the Makati City Regional Trial Court. PT&T is challenging the NTC’s definition of what it means to be a telco operator on a national scale, claiming the NTC’s interpretation was “discriminatory” to local companies.

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The issue relates to the technical requirement of the NTC that a qualified bidder must have at least 10 years of experience operating as a telco on a national scale. PT&T, which has been in the industry for over half a century, said the NTC had withheld the certification that showed the company had met the technical requirement.

Without this, PT&T would be automatically disqualified in the bidding exercise, whose deadline was set for today, Nov. 7.

“We believe the NTC’s refusal to issue the said certification is without basis since it is premised on a restrictive interpretation of the term ‘national scale’ as it heavily favors foreign telecom companies who want to participate in the third telco bidding,” said James Velasquez, president and CEO.

PT&T officials said in a press conference they had appeared to stumble in the technical requirement when the NTC issued clarificatory bulletins last month. Those, it said, were issued after it bought bid documents.

Other local bidders, in particular those with foreign partners, have not raised any issue with the rules. For the bidding exercise, Velasquez said PT&T intended to bid on its own and a foreign partner would come later.

The NTC required bidders to have a national presence to prove that they could roll out a country-wide mobile service. In its rules, however, it noted that a foreign telco could still meet the requirement even if it had regional operations in its home country. The designation of having national operations depends on the telecommunications authority of a given country, the NTC had said.

PT&T said on Tuesday that it continued to support NTC’s selection process and that it was not trying to stop the bid. Velasquez said they only wanted to be given the opportunity to submit an offer. He said the filing before the Makati court was aimed at compelling the NTC to accept its offer until a decision on the definition of a national telco was resolved.

PT&T is the second potential bidder to question the NTC’s rules. The first was NOW Telecom, which challenged the steep financial requirements and claimed it had preexisting rights to radio frequencies the government was bidding out. In an order dated Nov. 5 this year, the Manila RTC denied NOW’s request for a preliminary injunction against the bidding process.

“NOW will exhaust all its legal remedies with respect to its prayer for an injunction. We shall continue our claim for the 140 MHZ [megahertz] frequencies out of the 225 MHZ frequencies being bid out,” it said in a statement on Tuesday. “The fight is not over yet.”

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