DICT to pursue common tower policy even without 3rd telco

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said Saturday it is pushing through with the implementation of its common tower policy even without the entry of a new major telco player.

DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said this will allow cell tower firms to build and deploy communication infrastructures that may be leased to telcos to further improve the delivery of their services to the public.

“We will go ahead with the common tower initiative even if we have only two telcos because the fact remains that we still need an additional 50,000 towers to improve our connectivity,” Rio said in a statement.

“Common towers can bring down the cost of our telecommunication services so there is definitely a need for this initiative, whether we have two or three or even four telcos,” he added.

The DICT official made this reaction amid issues regarding the validity of the franchise of the third telco player.

Various lawmakers have expressed concern that Mislatel Consortium, a joint venture of Udenna Corp. of businessman Dennis Uy and Chinese state-owned firm China Telecom, has failed to comply with the conditions of its franchise as it has not operated within a year after the franchise was granted and sold 70 percent of its shares without congressional approval.

Mislatel was granted a legislative franchise in 1998 with a specific provision to commence operations within one year from approval.

Rio estimated that the common tower initiative would generate about USD4.4 billion and would create thousands of jobs.

To date, the DICT has common tower provider agreements with local firm ISOC Infrastructures, Inc.; Singapore’s ISON ECP Tower Pte. Ltd.; IHS Towers; Edotco Group; RT Telecom Sdn Bhd of Malaysia; and China Energy Engineering Corp.

The government will provide assistance to the tower firms through facilitation of permits, right of way, and providing other government support for infrastructure should they secure a contract with any of the telco operators.

The DICT earlier said the Philippines needs additional 50,000 cell towers to be competitive with its neighboring countries in providing quality communication services to the public.

The country has about 16,000 cell sites, the lowest cell density in Asia.

The lack of cell towers has been identified as one of the barriers to affordable and consistently reliable Internet services in the country. (PNA)