Villar firm seeks telco license
The family of Manuel Villar Jr., property tycoon and the country’s richest man, is seeking a government license to roll out high-speed fixed internet across the country.
Villar’s son, Manuel Paolo Villar, told reporters in a recent interview that they have applied for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The license will allow the company to launch a nationwide broadband service, said the younger Villar, who owns and chairs privately held Prime Asset Ventures Inc. The Villars currently provide fixed-line internet services in a limited number of areas under the brand Planet Cable.
“We will try to do it very fast, within three years,” Villar said when asked about their rollout plans.
He said the priority was to provide fast internet to the roughly half a million homes built by Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., the flagship property company founded by Manuel Villar Jr., who is also a former senator.
Villar, who holds a telco franchise via Streamtech Systems Technologies Inc., said they hoped to obtain their NTC license within the year.
Through Streamtech, the Villars considered joining the third telco initiative of the government in 2018. The family eventually decided to withdraw from the race, which was later won by businessman Dennis Uy with the backing of China Telecom.
Businesses are seeing big opportunities in the fixed-line space given the low penetration rate. Industry players estimated that fiber internet connections last year accounted for just 5 percent of all Filipino households.
Apart from rolling out fixed-line internet, the Villars are also keen on participating in the mobile telco business as cell tower operators or builders.
This is in step with a Department of Information and Communications Technology-led initiative to start the construction of at least 50,000 new telco towers to augment the country’s existing 17,000 towers controlled by incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Degraded mobile services such as dropped calls or slow internet are due to congestion in their networks, 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.
The government’s common tower initiative is a crucial component of the third telco program, which was launched by the Duterte administration last year to inject competition in the country’s two-player telco industry dominated by PLDT and Globe.
Over the past five months, the DICT has identified at least 20 tower builders keen on working with the telcos to build shared telco sites.
A DICT source said the Villars are planning to partner with a telco tower operator.
Meanwhile, the rollout plans of the third mobile player have been pushed back given delays in Congress on the transfer of its telco franchise. The DICT hopes that transfer can be finalized immediately after the May 13 polls this year.
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