Palace help sought to boost telco tower plan
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is hoping President Duterte can give its common tower initiative a boost as it steps in to fix the massive lack of cell sites in the county.
DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said they have requested Malacañang for an Executive Order (EO) that would slash the permitting bottlenecks that were blamed for the slow rollout of cell towers.
The DICT is preparing to release this month its own common tower rules, which the department hopes will spur the construction of at least 50,000 new sites in the coming years, but Rio said the guidelines might not be enough.
“An executive order by the President will have more clout than a department order,” Rio said in an interview with the Inquirer.
He said the EO would declare the common tower program and other shared telco infrastructure as projects of national significance and are thus presumed to enjoy a faster approval process.
The EO would also create a common tower coordinating council, whose chair will be nominated by the DICT. The council’s main roles are to standardize and streamline regulatory processes, including the fees to be paid.
The Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act, signed into law last year, would also address the slow permitting process, Rio said.
Incumbent telcos PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom complained that they needed to secure more than two dozen permits to build a single cell site while the waiting period could stretch up to eight months.
PLDT and Globe have built some 17,000 cell sites over two decades. But with the Philippines’ population of more than 100 million people and with mobile penetration well above 100 percent, cell site congestion here is also among the highest in the world, the DICT said.
Under its common tower program, the DICT is inviting private tower companies to build 50,000 cell sites in a massive $4.4-billion construction spree. This would help the Philippines catch up with neighbors like Vietnam, which has 70,000 towers.
Over the last four months, the DICT has identified at least 19 tower builders, including American Towers, China Energy Engineering Corp and Filipino firms such as ISOC Infrastructures and Aboitiz InfraCapital.
Decongesting the country’s cell networks would lead to better mobile services such as calls and internet browsing.
A tower sharing system will also help with 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.
Rio said the release of their rules this month would include the DICT’s proof of concept and the first 1,000 sites to be rolled out under a common tower regime.
“This is a very big step forward in improving our telecommunications. We really lack towers,” Rio said.
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