DICT vows to further improve Internet service in PHL

MANILA — The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) intends to pursue initiatives that would further improve the mobile services in the country as President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the National Broadband Program which seeks to improve Internet connectivity and speed particularly to remote areas of the country.

With the approval, DICT is eyeing to rollout the groundwork for the national broadband network within the first half of the year.

DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima has stated that the program could be accomplished within the term of the President.

The department is opting for a hybrid system wherein the infrastructure could be rented out and services of the telcos including their physical components could be tapped as part of the network if it would be more cost-efficient to the government. This would enable the government to save costs and would not duplicate infrastructure in areas already covered by telcos.

The establishment of the national broadband network could also be hastened if the government would be able to use thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cables of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) from north to south.

Salalima said the cost of the national broadband plan is estimated to be at around PHP 77 billion-PHP 200 billion.

Furthermore, DICT has also prepared a draft Executive Order that will compel local government units (LGUs) to process permits of mobile network providers for additional cell sites within seven days.

The installation of additional cell sites is important to further improve Internet speed and enhance connectivity across the country.

According to National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) chief Gamaliel Cordoba, an average of 25-30 permits from LGUs are required for the construction of one cell site, processed in a span of eight (8) months. He also emphasized the lack of uniformity in processing fees in different LGUs.

“The barriers also discourage new players’ entry into the telco market, suppressing competition—real competition that could provide consumer choice and thus drive significant improvements in cost and quality”, Internet Society-Philippines Chapter Chairman Winthrop Yu said in a statement.

DICT has also warned that it will crack down on hoarding of frequencies which might compromise mobile communications in the country after a recent audit of the NTC showed that a number of establishments have not been using or paying the required fees for their frequency spectrums.

“Frequencies should be allocated to new players in the telco industry,” DICT Secretary Salalima said.

The latest report from Akamai showed that the Philippines has the second slowest fixed line broadband Internet speed in the world. The average Internet connection speed was recorded at 4.2 megabits per second (mbps) from the period of July to August 2016 in the Asia-Pacific. Globally, South Korea recorded the fastest average connection speed with 26.3 mbps.

Internet service in the Philippines is also one of the most expensive in the world, averaging USD 18 (PHP 840)/mbps compared to the global average of USD 5 (PHP 230)/mbps. Aerol Patena/PNA-northboundasia.com