DICT Secretary: PHL open to more telco players

MANILA — An open competition in the local telecommunications industry would help ensure better service, greater coverage and affordable pricing.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Rodolfo Salalima stressed that the entry of new players in the telco industry will improve the state of mobile communications and Internet access in the country.

“Do we need more competition in the telecom industry in our country? Yes, the soonest the best for the consumers in terms of better service, greater coverage and more affordable pricings,” Salalima said in his keynote speech during the Philippine Telecommunications Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on Thursday.

The DICT Secretary said any local or foreign telco firms which have the capability to establish mobile communication facilities that can provide quality service to the consumers are welcome.

“If any local franchisee wants to be the third or fourth operators of consequence in this country, bring in a foreign partner with the legal, technical and financial credibility and capacity to mount a credible and effective competition against the existing telcos,” Salalima said.

To ensure free competition in the telco industry, the DICT has ordered the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to start its legal proceedings for the recovery of unused and unpaid mobile frequencies for reassignment to telco firms which they may use for public service.

This directive was issued 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.

“Enough of frequency hoarding or warehousing for purely financial speculative gains. Radio frequencies must be assigned solely and only for public use. No use, no payment of spectrum user fees? Then the State takes these frequencies back and fast,” Salalima reiterated.

The frequencies may be assigned on a ‘show need’ basis which are enough for legitimate operators to improve the delivery of mobile services.

Prospective operators may only file their applications for authorization with the NTC.

Furthermore, the NTC will initiate quasi-judicial proceedings on the fixing of rates of telecommunications and broadcast services to ensure affordability of services of telco operators.

The DICT is also preparing a draft Executive Order that will fast-track the approval of permits for the establishment of additional cell sites with local government units.

Salalima expects that the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte of the National Broadband Program would significantly provide people in remote areas access to telecommunications services consistent with the government’s countryside development initiative.

This would also provide the platform for the E-Gov plan to institutionalize a single digitized network and centralized common data base for online services of the government in the country.

Moreover, the National Broadband is the Philippines’ contribution to the objectives of the ASEAN Masterplan of 2015, namely to make ICT the engine of growth in the ASEAN region, make the region a global ICT hub, improve the quality of life of people of the ASEAN region and strengthen the ASEAN members’ contribution towards integration.

The Philippine Telecoms Summit which was organized by the DICT, in partnership with the PCTO and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), seeks to gather the telecommunications industry’s stakeholders, comprising of government agencies and regulators, industry players, experts, and consumers in one event to address the problems and issues surrounding the state of telecommunications in the country today, particularly speed, coverage and affordability of Internet. Aerol Patena/PNAnorthboundasia.com