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DICT says 15 tower builders enough, closes door on new applicants

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) wants to close the door on interested tower builders after signing up at least 15 providers over the last three months.

On Thursday, the DICT sealed memorandums of understanding with Shinheung Telecom Co. and Alt-Global Solutions. They were the latest to answer the government’s call to address the lack of cell sites in the country.

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The MOUs will allow the firms to enter into tower building contracts with the telecommunications providers. In turn, the DICT will support the tower builders by helping in securing permits and potentially granting the use of certain government assets.

DICT acting chief Eliseo Rio Jr. said more tower providers were keen on participating but he noted that 15 “might be too many to handle.”

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“I think we have gotten the best of the best,” said Rio, adding that they could allow more providers in about six months “if the market says we need more than 15.”

So far, the DICT has signed MOUs with Isoc Infrastructures, Ison ECP Tower of Singapore, IHS Towers, Edotco Group, RT Telecom of Malaysia, China Energy Engineering Corp., Aboitiz InfraCapital and MGS Construction, American Towers, Frontier Tower Associates Management, Phil Tower Consortium (Global Networks Inc. and JTower Inc.), J.S. Cruz Construction and Development Inc. and DT Towers.

Telco incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom have built and are in control of about 17,000 cell sites across the country. However, the figure was far below the about 70,000 sites that the DICT said were needed to close the gap with neighbors such as Vietnam.

Degraded mobile services such as dropped calls or slow internet are due to congestion in the network, the telcos have argued. The answer is to build more sites, but these are hampered by the burdensome permitting process, especially at the level of local government units.

Through its MOU, the DICT hopes to address part of those permitting concerns. Apart from more sites, the DICT wants the telco players to share their tower assets.

This would be crucial in the rollout plans of Mislatel Consortium, the venture between businessman Dennis A. Uy’s Udenna Corp. and China Telecom that was named the country’s third mobile player last November.

The DICT said PLDT and Globe could benefit from tower sharing since this could lower costs and spending requirements— savings from which could be passed on to subscribers.

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While the industry is open to sharing new towers it remains wary of the policy for existing sites. For its part, PLDT said its existing towers could not bear the weight of equipment of other telcos since these were designed for a single operator.

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TAGS: Alt-Global Solutions, cell sites, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Shinheung Telecom Co., tower builders
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