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Aboitiz, Villar keen on joining gov’t cell towers rollout program

/ 05:14 AM February 07, 2019

Filipino tycoons are rushing to join a massive government-backed initiative to speed up the rollout of cell towers and improve mobile connectivity across the country.

Eliseo Rio Jr., acting Secretary of Information and Communications Technology, said the Aboitiz Group and the family of former politician and entrepreneur Manuel Villar Jr. had signaled their interest to help the government meet the country’s backlog of 50,000 cell towers, whose construction value could top $4.4 billion.

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“They are interested in becoming common tower providers,” Rio said in an interview on Wednesday.

The Aboitiz and Villar families are among the richest in the Philippines, according to Forbes Magazine.

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Rio said the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) was set to sign a memorandum of understanding today with the Aboitiz Group, whose interests span power, property development, banking, food and infrastructure.

Aboitiz will likely tap its expertise in running power transmission networks, a core portion of its business.

Villar’s fortune came from building affordable homes via Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. He is also moving into key infrastructure areas.

Villar’s group also holds a telco franchise and was among those that was studying a bid to become the country’s third mobile player before backing out.

So far, the DICT had signed MOUs with six tower companies or ventures.

These are RT Telecom, ISOC Infrastructures, ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd, IHS Towers, Edotco Group and China Energy Equipment Co. Ltd. By next week, it will sign an MOU with American Tower, Rio said.

The government is calling on tower operators to increase the number of cell sites in the country. At present, PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom control about 17,000 towers, which was deemed inadequate to serve the market.

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

This is moving alongside the broader goal to encourage telcos to share infrastructure to lower their own costs and for their subscribers.

Moreover, an infrastructure sharing policy would help speed up the rollout of Mislatel Consortium, the venture between businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. and China Telecom that was named the country’s third mobile player last November. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: Aboitiz group, cell towers, Eliseo Rio Jr., Manuel Villar Jr., mobile connectivity
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