Cheaper, faster internet
That, at least, is the promise of the third telco player being selected by the government to break the duopoly of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
Suspicions were bound to arise when the group of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and the Chinese government-owned China Telecom emerged as the lone qualified bidder for the third telco
It is public knowledge that Uy is a personal friend of President Duterte, who had also announced last year his preference for China to enter the Philippine telecommunications space.
However, credit should be given to Eliseo Rio Jr., the acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), who oversaw for a year the whole process of painstakingly drafting stringent parameters in the selection process, in consultation with the prospective players themselves and international experts.
While many local and foreign groups had indicated interest to join the bidding, there were a few that complained about the stringent requirements in the selection process.
In the end, there were three groups that submitted bids, but it was the Mislatel consortium of Uy and China Telecom that remained qualified. Mislatel stands for Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co. Inc., which holds a 25-year congressional franchise obtained in 1998.
Its members include Uy’s Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics as well as China Telecom.
Udenna is a holding company with interests in energy, logistics, property and education.
China Telecom, China’s third biggest telco, has more than
200 million mobile subscribers and $50 billion in annual revenues.
Mislatel’s proposal promised a minimum average internet connection speed of 27 megabits per second (mbps) for the first year, and a coverage area of up to 50 percent of the Philippines.
It will invest up to P140 billion for the necessary infrastructure as the third telco player. According to the Speedtest Global Index (September 2018), the Philippines had a mobile download speed of 13.83 mbps, or just a little over half of the global average of 23.64 mbps.
Despite the emergence of the Uy-China Telecom group as the provisional third player, there is still work to be done to finalize the award of the coveted slot.
And here lies a potential problem: the appointment of Sen. Gringo Honasan to head the DICT.
Rio did not hide his disappointment in the government’s apparent rush to replace him. While all appointees serve at the pleasure of the President, Rio said he was hoping that he would be given a few more weeks to finalize the entry of a third telco player, which he really worked hard for.
“I would not understand why I have to be changed in midstream of a very important activity that would finally bring a significant improvement in the telecommunications industry. I see no urgency in Senator Honasan taking over, at least until I fully finish this job on the third telco,” he pointed out.
Rio is right. Having overseen this project, he should be allowed to see the selection process for a third telco player through. He knows the process from the beginning, and the entry of a new
DICT head could disrupt the final awarding of the third telco slot.
A selection committee is still conducting the final verification of Uy-China Telecom’s offer. Only after it hurdles this stage will the consortium be named the final new major player.
It will then be given the necessary government licenses and awarded a set of radio frequencies it can use to launch services such as text messaging, calls and mobile internet browsing.
President Duterte’s advisers would do well to counsel him to let Rio finish this task, so the public can look forward to faster and cheaper internet services as early as next year.
The public has waited long enough for a reliable, efficient and inexpensive telecommunications service to become available in the country.
The next task of the DICT is to ensure that the third telco player will fulfill its commitment to Filipinos to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible cost.
This, Senator Honasan can oversee as head of the DICT.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.