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Telcos upgrade services ahead of third player

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Even before the third telecommunication player rolls out its network, the public is already feeling the benefits of Mislatel consortium’s entry as dominant players Globe Telecoms and Smart Communications have unveiled several announcements to improve their services.

Businessman Dennis Uy, the Filipino partner of Mislatel, said during the latest “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” the two telecoms service providers have initiated service upgrades and promotions in anticipation of their coming. Mislatel is a partnership among Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics and state-run China Telecom.

“The public will surely benefit with our entry,” Uy said. “As we speak, the two major players (in the telecom industry) have announced plans to improve their networks and services. And that is even before we start our service.”

Indeed, Smart Communications, the wireless unit of PLDT, said it would spend P70 billion for 2019 to improve its network.

In addition, the company entered into a partnership with Nokia to deploy a fifth generation (5G) technology and services in schools across the country. Smart and Nokia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the development of 5G standalone (5G SA) solutions such as artificial intelligence, drones and Internet of Things applications for use in colleges and universities.

“We are happy to partner with Nokia to help develop intelligent solutions and technologies for the benefit of the Philippine education sector,” PLDT-Smart chairman and chief executive officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said during the signing.

For its part, Globe announced in February it would allocate a record P63 billion capital spending this year, or 45 percent higher than its previous spending in 2018 as the company pursue a more aggressive spending plan ahead of the competition posed by the coming of Mislatel and the increase in demand for bandwidth-hungry services such as Internet TV.

Industry observers said the increase in CapEx (capital expenditures) by both Globe and Smart is not only geared towards meeting the growing demand but because of the reality, they cannot afford to be complacent with the entry of another player.

Mislatel is still on track to roll out its network.

Still on track

Meanwhile, Uy said the consortium is still on track with regards to its rollout plan by 2020 despite the delays in the securing of local business permits to put up towers and other bureaucratic requirements.

“We’ll encounter problems as we outsource to our subcontractors, but hopefully we can manage,” Uy said, adding that logistics and financing are not an issue. He said they expect the House of Representatives to resolve their franchise issue after the May midterm polls. “We need 26 to 30 permits to build one tower. If you put up a tower, we will need to get the consent of residents in the immediate area, permits from the local governments down to barangays, it’s not easy,” he said.

On Thursday, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) acting Secretary Eliseo Rio also backed Uy’s timetable and said the consortium has already started preparatory works on its network while waiting for the resolution on its franchise application.

The DICT is still waiting for Congress to officially approve Mislatel’s franchise before it can give out the necessary radio frequencies and for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to issue it a license to operate as a telephone company.

Rio was quoted as saying, “Mislatel is already doing things. They have started with their rollout. They are already building towers and doing their layout. They are taking the risk, but they cannot operate until they get the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and frequencies.”

1,000 towers

Uy said they plan on constructing up to 1,000 towers within a year as he expects to provide service to his first customer by June.

The Philippines currently has one of the lowest cell site densities in Asia with an estimated 4,036 Internet users per cell site based on 16,600 total towers against 67 million internet users. Counting all the expected delays from the securing of permits, Mislatel still expects to serve its first customer within one year.

“Even before Mislatel operations start, the telecommunications services from the duopoly have improved and that’s a good signal for consumers,” he said.

“We are all consumers, subscribers; you see that they have announced that they have put in more capital expenditures. So that’s a good start. Hopefully, we can make a difference and try to get as many costumers as we can,” he said.

“It’s not easy to enter this industry; it takes conviction and a lot of capital… looking at it the other way, that there’s only a handful who bid. So if we did not bid, then it will be a failed process. So nobody wins including the consumers,” he said.

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