By Edgard Hilario
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is finally putting to rest the two tower companies (towercos) limit in the proposed common tower policy by citing the mandate to build towers that’s included in the franchise of the incumbent telcos.
Acting DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr. said that the franchise is a law passed by congress and signed by the president himself that grants the telcos authority to put up their own towers. “The basic problem of the proposed two towercos policy is the prohibition of the telcos to build their own infrastructure which is against the law. The right to build towers can never be removed from the telcos,” Rio revealed.
Under the draft of the common tower policy, the building of cell sites will be assigned to a maximum of two independent tower companies which will be chosen by a selection process which is yet to be created. The draft guidelines also stated thattelcos can no longer participate in cell site building except if the tower company is unable to do so 30 days after the request was made.
Senator Chiz Escudero even lambasted the idea of the two towercos limit during the recent Senate hearing on the third telco player. “Having only two players is not opening it up and it will only make it even more of a duopoly or monopoly. I don’t understand why the DICT and NTC are even considering it,” Escudero said.
The draft policy rules stated that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will award licenses to two tower companies for the first four years after the policy is implemented. The proposed rules also stated tower companies are independent of mobile network operators and the telcos must not own any equity in the tower firms to promote tower sharing, non-discriminatory access, uniformity, and transparency in the leasing arrangements.
Rio reiterated that the common tower policy remains a draft until all issues from all the stakeholders are settled. “The common tower policy is not yet final. We are still in the process of consulting different parties about the proposed draft,” Rio said.
The Philippines has only 16,500 cell sites and needs 50,000 cell sites more to serve the 67 million Filipino internet users and catch up with neighboring countries like Vietnam which has 70,000 cell sites.