DICT Says Legal Hurdle Versus 3rd Major Telco No Effect On Common Tower Project

WILL the winning bidder — Mislatel — for the new major player (NMP) in the telecommunications (telco) sector of the ICT industry survive senators’ doubts over its franchise?

Surely, if not all Filipinos, majority would want the third major telco to survive and live on to provide a (hopefully better and faster) internet connection to what the duopoly Smart Communications and Globe Telecommunications have been giving the nation.

But the decision is not in the hands of the Filipino citizens, it’s in the hands of the concerned authorities or government agencies.

Perhaps, that could be the biggest stumbling block to the NMP the legal hurdle now being raised in the Senate.

If it’s any consolation, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Wednesday (January 30) said the government’s common tower project will continue despite the legal gauntlet that Mislatel has to navigate.

It can be recalled that the DICT is also focused on building telco common towers for the country as the lack of towers is also being blamed as the cause of either poor or no connectivity at all in far-flung areas.


HANDSHAKE SEALS DEAL. DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. and RT Telecom Chief Operating Officer Subash Devan. (SDN file photo)

Areas which are either underserved or unserved by Smart and Globe, apparently, because of their being not conducive for a good return of investments (ROIs).

And the DICT had already reached understanding with some telco companies to realize the common tower project.

DICT Acting Secretary (Brig, Gen., Ret.) Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. has been a fixture in Congress because of the Senate investigation on Mislatel’s franchise, among other issues.

He assured, though, that the ongoing debate on its franchise’s validity — which one senator claimed was considered revoked already — has no bearing on the government plan to accelerate the accumulation of more telco infrastructure.

The country only has around 20,000 more or less towers and thousands more are needed.

“We will go ahead with the common tower initiative even if we have only two telcos because the fact remains that we still need an additional 50,000 towers to improve our connectivity,” Rio said.

The DICT chief made the assurance during the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the DICT and RT Telecom SDN. BHD.

RT Telecom through Subash Devan committed to constructing 15,000 towers spread in mostly the country’s remote communities with a price tag of from US$800 million to US$1 billion in five years’ time.

Rio made the comment amid the Senate Committee on Public Service’s pending resolution focused on determining Mislatel, the franchise holder of the NMP consortium, can get the approval of Congress on its request to grant the transfer of controlling interests.

The consortium behind Mislatel based on the NMP confirmation order on November 19, 2018 by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which under DICT, are the Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp.; China Telecom, and Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. Inc.

Rio said having common towers is key to a cheaper telecommunications services.

“Common towers can bring down the cost of our telecommunication services so there is definitely a need for this initiative, whether we have to two or three or even four telcos,” the DICT chief added.

Rio noted that the common tower project will approximately bring in US$4.4 billion in investment and will create thousands of jobs, dubbing it as the biggest DICT’s ‘Build Build Build” project without using any public funds since it will be funded by the private sector.

RT Telecom is the second Malaysian-based company and the sixth tower provider to sign an MoU with the DICT, represented by Rio and Assistant Secretary for Infostructure Management and Special Concerns Alan Silor in the ceremony.

RT Telecom, a Malaysia-based utility infrastructure investment holding company specializing on steel tower fabrication for transmission grids and telecommunications, was represented by Mr. Subhash Devan and Country Representative Ronaldo Talagtag.

The deal entered by RT was the same as the five previous firm including ISOC Infrastructures Inc., ISON ECP Tower Pte. Ltd., IHS Towers, Edotco Group and China Energy Engineering Corporation, where the government will support their companies in facilitating permits, right of way, and provide other government support for infrastructure should they secure a contract with any of the telco operators.   Rio said that two or three more tower companies have expressed to follow suit in signing the same agreement. (EKU)

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