The Daily Manila Shimbun


Expect much improved services with “cut-throat” competition by Q1 next year as 3rd telco enters market – NTC

December 8, 2020

Filipinos have to wait until March next year to expect much improved services from telecommunication firms as "cut-throat" competition would take place starting that time with the entry of the third telco in the market, the National Telecommunications Commission said on Tuesday.

In a televised press briefing, NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said that China-backed Dito Telecommunity Corp. will enter the market by first quarter of 2021.

"As mentioned, the key here is competition, that's why the third telco initiative of the President (Rodrigo Duterte), when Dito enters in the first quarter of 2021, there will really be competition in the market. The competition is cut-throat and the services will improve more and the price will go down," he said.

Duterte warned last July the telcos, including the two major players PLDT-Smart Communications and Globe Telecom, to improve their services or get shut down by December if they failed to improve their services.

Globe and PLDT-Smart have blamed the local government units for their failure to secure the necessary permits to build towers, prompting Duterte to warn LGUs.

Since then, the telecom companies said they were able to establish more towers.

Despite that, people, like Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, continue to complain of poor services.

During his regular televised press briefing on Tuesday, Roque invited NTC officials and representatives of telcos in the country to get their commitment for improved services.

Asked the reason for the alleged "lousy" broadband services of the telcos, Globe President and CEO Ernest Cu said, "I don't think it's a lousy service. Because if that is a lousy service, I don't think the examples that you heard today about zoom meet is going through, the country’s BPO industry flourishing and people watching Netflix and YouTube and Facebooking to their harsh content will be happening."

He said the Filipinos need to be patient as the telcos continue to build more infrastructure and transforming from copper and wireless in terms of home internet into fiber.

Aside from the previous problem about permits, which according to him was addressed, Cu said another challenge is the country's topography.

"Our islands are very difficult to cover with fiber and that is what I think Commissioner Liel (Cordoba) has been saying that it takes a hybrid of government and private sector investment to be able to really bring about fiber everywhere in this country," he said.

Smart President and CEO Al  Panlilio said PLDT-Smart is aiming to be at par with at least Vietnam and Thailand in terms of speed in fixed broadband.

"That is the benchmark that PLDT-Smart is aiming for. So, we do know that we have improved, but we do know but we can still get better and we should get better for our Filipino customers," he said.

Citing the Speedtest Global Index (October 2020) Asia - Fixed Broadband, Cordoba said out of 50 countries, the Philippines ranked 32nd. Thailand was at second place while Vietnam at 14th.

He noted that in other countries, like Thailand and Vietnam, governments operate their major telecommunication firms and they earmark budget to improve their services.

In the Philippines, Cordoba said the Department of Information and Communications Technology needs around P18 billion to fully put up a national broadband network in the whole country.

But he said the fundS need not be given one time. thus, for next year, the proposal to Congress is P6 billion to lay down one line from north to south.

The official said when the national broadband network is fully established, the government could recover the amount since private telcos have to lease to the government.

Meanwhile, Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano expressed hope that Congress will grant Dito's franchise extension before its commercial launch in March.

"So, we are very hopeful that, that will happen and we are excited, as we have been saying, to bring competition to the market starting March. And if I may just say in regard the question on coverage, we have a government commitment to have 84 percent coverage by our fifth year so those underserved areas will be met, allow us to say that, that is our government commitment. But internally, we are going for 90 w percent ithin five years," he said.

Dito's 25-year franchise will end in 2023. It holds a congressional franchise via Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. granted in 1998.

Tamano also assuaged security concernS on Dito being partly owned by China Telecom, a state-owned company, and the group of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.

"If  I can just safely point on that. First point, we are a Filipino company, it is run by Filipinos and the officers are Filipino, the employees are Filipino. It is a Filipino country and therefore we will never allow any espionage or anything that will be negative to our national security to happen to our operations," he said.

Tamano also said that unlike the other telco companies, the DICT and the NTC required Dito to provide cyber security plan in order "to protect the consumers and the network from cyber security problems whether be from other countries or whether be from different groups." Celerina Monte/DMS