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2 more foreign firms sign up for PH common tower plan

/ 05:30 AM January 18, 2019

Foreign groups are signing up to build shared cell towers in the Philippines as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) opened the door to more players.

On Thursday, Nigeria’s IHS Towers, the world’s third largest independent operator, and Malaysia’s Edotco Group, which operates across six countries in the region, signed agreements with the DICT to signal their intention to meet the country’s backlog of 50,000 towers.

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This comes after similar deals were signed with Filipino firm ISOC Infrastructures, which partnered with Malaysia’s OCK Group, and ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd.

On Friday, the DICT is scheduled to sign an MOU with China Energy Engineering Group, which would be the fifth to join the government-led initiative.

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“Right now 40 percent of the country remains unserved or underserved. We would like to lessen that,” Eliseo Rio Jr., CICT acting secretary, said in a briefing.

The presence of more towers— incumbent operators PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom control a combined 16,000 sites to date—would bolster mobile coverage and quality across the country.

Also, the government’s policy to encourage tower sharing was seen to lower costs for customers and operators, including third mobile player Mislatel Consortium, which is expected to launch its mobile service within 2019.

Suresh Sidhu, CEO of Edotco, told reporters on Thursday that their planned investment in the Philippines could be their largest. He said Edotco was planning to spend over $1 billion to build at least 10,000 towers.

“We believe the future is common towers if you have the aspiration to connect the country with 4G and 5G,” Sidhu said during the signing ceremony yesterday.

Ted Manvitz, chief strategy officer and executive vice president at IHS, said they also planned to build a significant tower presence in the Philippines.

“The Philippines provides a growth opportunity and a real need from the existing providers and the new provider,” Manvitz said.

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Under the agreement, the DICT will provide support such as helping facilitate permits and allowing the use of government assets so long as the tower provider secures a contract with a telco operator.

Tower providers will also have a preference regarding receiving support for sites where the telcos choose not to build.

The implementation path chosen by the DICT still faces uncertainty given the common tower guidelines being drafted by the office of presidential adviser Ramon Jacinto.

On Thursday, Jacinto described the DICT’s MOUs with the tower providers as “only a temporary measure.”

“An MOU is nonbinding and still has to be subject to the final guidelines. And even the investors still want a strong mandated policy from the government embodied in the guidelines,” he said.

“When it comes to the common tower [policy] DICT has to follow the final guidelines my office is preparing,” he added.

The DICT under Rio has been at odds with Jacinto over the issue.

The DICT wants no limit in the number of tower providers and to scale back certain provisions in the rules that are expected to be challenged by the telcos in court.

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TAGS: cell towers, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Eliseo Rio Jr.
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