PCC flags gov’t draft on common tower policy
The country’s antitrust body advised against the government’s draft on common tower policy, citing rules that might do more harm than good to an industry in need of a third telco player.
In a position paper sent to reporters on Tuesday, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) flagged some parts of the draft policy, which, it said, might later raise “competition concerns.”
In status quo, only telco giants Globe and PLDT, Inc. could put up cell towers, a slow process which the existing players have blamed on red tape.
The common tower policy will open this subsector by having independent tower companies put up these cell sites instead, opening them up for sharing.
But the PCC noted the current form of the draft “may raise competition concerns and be in direct contravention to the open access regime that the government is advocating for.”
The antitrust body joins other stakeholders — including the telco giants — who found problematic points in the government’s common tower policy.
For its part, the PCC raised its reservations with the limit the draft imposed on the number of common tower companies that could put up cell sites. For the first four years of the policy, only two tower companies can participate.
PLDT and Globe together operate a combined 16,000 cell sites. This is far less than neighbors such as Vietnam and Indonesia, which have about 70,000 and 90,000 towers, respectively. As such, the government is seeking two tower companies that can build an additional 50,000 sites.
The PCC questioned the wisdom behind this limit, which was proposed to ensure the financial viability of the common tower operators by granting them exclusive rights due to capital-intensive nature of the business.
The PCC, however, said tower companies do not have to set up many different cell sites in order to be financially viable.
Instead, tower companies could just build individual towers and earn from the rental payments of telecommunications companies that use the tower, according to the PCC.
The PCC also cited the current landscape wherein the entry of the third player is being highly anticipated, creating pressure to be more efficient, aggressive, and innovative.
The limit, the PCC believed, would likewise not answer the concern on the wasteful duplication of network resources and multiplicity of permits, resulting in the slow roll-out of infrastructure and poor quality of services.
“Increasing the number of Tower Companies in the market could mean additional network infrastructure, resulting in less data traffic congestion,” PCC said.
“The issue on the multiplicity of permits would be better addressed not by capping the number of Tower Companies but by streamlining government processes in granting permits,” it added.
Moreover, the PCC said it wants further clarification on the definition of a tower company, which currently also rules out certain entities from owning any equity in the tower companies.
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