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BETTER MOBILE SERVICES

PLDT, Globe open to other private tower builders

/ 05:07 AM January 21, 2019

Industry giants PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom signaled their openness to a deal with independent towers builders as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) signed a series of agreements with foreign and local operators to boost the number of cell sites in the country.

PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said on Friday they were in early talks with a number of tower companies, which he did not name.

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“We are wiling to support,” Pangilinan said, adding that they were flexible with their terms.

“If they are willing to sell after they build the towers we are willing to consider buying them or just leasing the towers and they tell us whether you are gong to lease it to the other telcos,” he added.

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Froilan Castelo, Globe general counsel and senior vice president, said separately that they would support the current initiative “as long as this will encourage the build of more sites.”

The DICT, under Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., invited tower builders to address the backlog of at least 50,000 towers, which would put the Philippines on par with Vietnam’s 70,000 towers.

Since cell towers are shared by their users, an increase in their density typically leads to better mobile services such as calls and internet quality.

Philippine telcos control about 16,600 towers, or more than 4,000 users per site. In Vietnam, that ratio is much lower at about 900 users per site.

The slow rollout is also compounded by the burdensome permitting process involving 25 approvals at the local government unit level and, in some situations, corruption, Rio said on Friday.

As part of its agreement with the common tower providers, the DICT promised to provide full support in facilitating permits and making use of certain government assets should a tower provider seal a contract with a telco.

So far, tower companies that have signed memorandums of understanding with the DICT were ISOC Infrastructures, which partnered with Malaysia’s OCK Group; ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd; Nigeria’s IHS Towers; Malaysia’s Edotco Group, and China Energy Equipment Co. Ltd.

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Suresh Sidhu, CEO of Edotco, said they were optimistic about cutting a deal with local telco players on shared infrastructure as long as the terms were fair.

“They (the telcos) are quite happy to share as long as a neutral party coordinates it. You are not giving anyone a bigger advantage than the other,” he said, citing his experience in Malaysia. “But when it’s them talking to each other, a lot of [other] dynamics come into play.”

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.

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TAGS: Business, Globe, PLDT
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