Senators doubt 3rd telco can meet rollout plan
The new major telco player’s ability to meet its rollout targets—aside from national security issues—took center stage during a Senate hearing on the third telco selection process on Tuesday.
Lawmakers drilled down on those key issues as the venture between China Telecom and businessman Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. known as Mislatel Consortium moves to complete its post-qualification requirements before receiving a coveted set of 3G, 4G and potential 5G radio frequencies to launch mobile services.
Mislatel, which was confirmed last Nov. 19 as the new major telco player, offered to spend P257 billion in five years, by which time it would have covered 84 percent of the country’s population and have a minimum average internet speed of 55 megabits per second.
But lawmakers were skeptical on its target to achieve 37-percent coverage on the first year alone, noting that rolling out a startup telco network could take at least 18 months. The third telco’s repeated breach of commitments on internet speed and coverage would lead to the forfeiture of its performance bond, worth about P25.7 billion, in the first year.
Adel Tamano, Mislatel spokesperson, said during the hearing they would lean on the technical expertise of China Telecom as well as partnerships with broadband providers to compete with incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
“We don’t have to start from scratch, which is why from the onset we said we are looking for partners with which to do our rollout,” said Tamano, noting that Mislatel had initial discussions with members of the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunication Operators.
“We are meeting with other groups that already have an existing backbone that we can leverage on,” Tamano added. “The 18 months [rollout] may be, in the past, the time that is needed to set up the facilities, but with the proper partners and the motivation, we intend to comply.”
The outgoing head of the Department of Information and Communication Technology Eliseo Rio Jr. had suggested that the Mislatel consortium take as partners the companies that lost the bidding, pointing out that these firms had the existing infrastructure and technology that could help speed up the rollout plan of a third telco player.
Also tackled during the hearing were issues raised by the two disqualified bidders against the NTC and Mislatel.
These were Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp., which filed a case at the Supreme Court seeking to overturn its disqualification, while a venture backed by Ilocos politician Luis “Chavit” Singson is moving to disqualify Mislatel.
On Tuesday, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, said another hearing would be set to discuss other issues hinted in her opening remarks, including the financial standing of Mislatel’s consortium members such as Udenna. The committee also extended another invitation to Uy, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s session.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.