By Lara Climaco i FilAm Star Correspondent
Ahead of promulgating the official common tower policy, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ISOC Infrastructures to gain a headstart on what players have called the industry’s greatest barrier—the extreme difficulty in acquiring permits for cell sites.
ISOC Infrastructures revealed the MOU signing on Facebook last December 20. The company posted a photo of the MOU signing and quoted a statement from DICT Acting Sec. Eliseo Rio Jr.
“ISOC is the first to submit a proposal on common telco towers, and we recognize their determination and commitment to pursue this to help push the objective of providing faster, more reliable and affordable internet and telco services to the Filipino people,” Rio was quoted in the press release of ISOC Infrastructures.
The move has not been revealed on the official website of DICT nor has Rio talked about it on FB.
According to ISOC Infrastructures, the MOU binds DICT to “facilitate the permitting and regulatory process, help identify and provide sites for the towers such as public buildings, government lots, among others.” Meanwhile, the commitment of ISOC Infrastructures is “to work with the telco companies in the roll-out of their improvement and expansion plans, especially for those areas that are in immediate need of access and connectivity.”
“The MOU with the DICT is proof of our strong desire to invest in improving the telco infrastructure in the country and to help contribute to the development of this industry with the telco providers as our partners,” Michael Cosiquien, chairman of ISOC Infrastructure, was quoted in the press release.
While the DICT had come out with a draft common tower policy as early as September, it is not yet in place because there is a deadlock on the number of common tower providers or “towercos” that would be allowed. The draft policy, reflecting the stand of Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs and ICT Ramon Jacinto, calls for two towercos during the first four years to avoid wasteful duplication. On the other hand, industry stakeholders want there to be more than two, meaning they want unrestricted open access to this part of the business.
An open and unrestricted access is likewise the stand of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), which weighed in with its position last month. Limiting the number of towercos would have adverse effects on market competition, it said.
“The PCC emphasizes that entry or potential entry to the market ensures the existence of competitive pressure, which drives the business to be more efficient, aggressive and innovative for the benefit of consumers,” according to the PCC.
PLDT and Globe Telecom have also opposed the draft policy for allegedly imposing undue restrictions on their congressional franchises, which allows them to build cell sites. Still, Globe divested its tower assets to a separate company in August, a move that it said signified its readiness to share those assets.
By Globe’s estimation, there are 16,500 existing cell sites in the country today but the need is to put up 50,000 more towers in order to adequately serve present demand.
Last year, Rio revealed that more than 5,000 subscribers share a tower in the Philippines when the more ideal ratio is one tower per 1,000 subscribers. Globe and Smart have only been able to build cell sites at a rate of 2,000 per year, according to the DICT chief. What the country needs, however, is at least 67,000 more cell sites to approach speeds and quality of service already available in Vietnam, he said.