3rd telco still hangs due to franchise issue
The country’s third telco initiative took a step forward, at least during the second Belt and Road Initiative in Beijing, China, as the issue on congressional franchise continues to delay the actual implementation of the project.
The consortium members that were named winners of the Philippines’ third mobile license late last year signed a $5.4-billion investment agreement that signaled their commitment to the initiative, which was launched by the Duterte administration last year to challenge incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
During China’s ambitious infrastructure forum, businessman Dennis A. Uy led the signing between his companies Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. with partner China Telecom, represented by its chair Ke Ruiwen.
“The signing of the investment agreement reiterates the group’s commitment to take up the challenge of providing better telecommunications services in the country,” said a statement issued by the group on Saturday.
The Udenna-China Telecom partnership won the bid via the Mislatel Consortium, named after the telco franchise holder Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. Inc.
However, the award of frequencies and rollout of telco services that should have started in the first quarter of 2019 has been delayed.
Eliseo Rio Jr., acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, had said that this came as lawmakers failed to finalize the transfer of ownership of Mislatel’s franchise within the DICT’s targeted timeframe. He said the transfer might move forward after the elections next month.
Mislatel earlier committed to invest P257 billion and bring coverage to 84 percent of the Philippine population within a five-year period.
It also committed a minimum average internet speed of 27 megabits per second (Mbps) in the first year. For the remainder, the speed will go up to 55 Mbps, which is on par with South Korea and Singapore, according to the Speedtest Global Index.
The consortium originally planned to roll out actual services by late 2020, coinciding with the commercial launch of 5G for many carriers.
The development also comes as Mislatel’s rivals are allocating vast sums to upgrade their respective networks. PLDT announced a record capital spending budget of P78.4 billion for this year alone while Globe is spending P63 billion, also an all-time high.
Uy, in the statement, nevertheless welcomed the signing of the investment agreement with China Telecom.
“This is a historic occasion,” said the Udenna chair.
“This is another step forward in realizing Udenna’s vision to improve the lives of Filipinos. Everything that we do is about making lives better not just for this generation, but for the next generation. And that is happening here. Thank you to our partners and to all for being a part of this journey,” he added.
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