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Chavit Singson beats competition, builds first common tower in PH

/ 09:58 PM October 16, 2019

Caoayan, Ilocos Sur—In the Northern Luzon town of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur, the Philippines’ first shared cell tower is set to rise.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Wednesday afternoon by LCS Holdings Inc., controlled by Ilocos politician Luis “Chavit” Singson and Thailand’s UA Withya PCL. The tower is expected to be operational in a few months.

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This is expected to be the first of at least 50,000 shared cell towers being pushed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The lack of cell sites— the Philippines has about 18,000 versus Vietnam’s 70,000 towers—is often cited for spotty mobile services.

“True to our commitment, we are also concentrating our efforts on prioritizing the deployment of our common towers in regional and rural areas,” Singson said on Wednesday.

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“We believe, in months to come, we would be able to narrow the gaps of the quality of the mobile services between those in the metro areas and those in the regional and rural areas,” he added.

Singson, incumbent mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur has ambitions to become a national player in the telco space. In November 2018, he made an unsuccessful bid in a government-led auction for a new mobile license.

On Wednesday, LCS announced that the third telco DITO Telecommunity, a venture between Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy and China Telecom, will be its launch customer.

“This ceremony marks the beginning of both DITO and LCS’ extensive infrastructure rollout in support of our drive to deliver long-awaited, much-deserved, state-of-the-art mobile service for the Philippines,” Adel Tamano, chief administrative officer at DITO, said on Wednesday.

The municipality of Caoayan mainly relies on fishing and agriculture to support the local economy and its roughly 20,000 residents.

But the town, the birthplace of Elpidio Quirino, the country’s sixth president, also experiences bouts of poor mobile service quality.

Eliseo Rio Jr., undersecretary at the DICT, on Wednesday called for the faster rollout of shared cell sites.

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“We need to add more towers as soon as possible,” Rio said. “We are using this initiative, which is being done here in Caoayan.”

Incumbent telcos PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom said they continue to support the government’s common tower program.

“We keep our options open. Since we support the common tower initiative we will look for all opportunities to use common towers where our business needs them,” Yoly C. Crisanto, Globe senior vice president for corporate communications, said in a text message on Wednesday.

Globe and PLDT earlier signed common tower agreements with the venture between Aboitiz InfraCapital-Frontier Tower Associates as well as ISOC Infrastructure and Malaysia’s edotco Group Sdn. Bhd.

But the main beneficiary of the common tower program is the third telco DITO, which is eyeing shared infrastructure to help meet its tough nationwide rollout commitments to the government.

It earlier committed to cover at least 37 percent of the population on its first year—a period that would end on July 8, 2020.

Over its five-year commitment period, it promised to cover 84 percent of the Philippines and offer internet speeds of at least 55 megabits per second. Its repeated failure to meet those milestones would result in the forfeiture of its P25.7 billion performance bond.

Apart from LCS, DITO also partnered with ABS-CBN Corp.’s SkyCable for unused fiber cables in Metro Manila.

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TAGS: Chavit Singson, LCS Holdings Inc., UA Withya PCL
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