The Philippines needs at least 50,000 more cell towers in operation to improve the delivery of telecommunication services, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).
DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said his office has decided to directly sign agreements with tower providers to address bureaucratic delays in the construction of cell sites.
“We need at least 50,000 additional towers in the Philippines. We can accommodate so many tower companies as the industry can accommodate. We are saying that we must let the market decide on how many towers can be put up in the country,” Rio said in a press conference on Thursday, during the signing of the memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with IHS Towers of Nigeria and Edotco Group to provide towers that may be leased to telco firms.
“Currently, there is so much red tape. Globe and Smart are also complaining that there are 25 permits they need to be granted to them. There is also the problem of corruption — under the table deals. This one specifically what these MOUs will address,” he added.
The DICT official likewise stressed that common tower providers will be able to help telcos save on the cost of building their own communication infrastructures.
“So here, we have the common towers that can solve the problem. Plus the fact that you will have added investments come in that will be a big help. This will be driven by market forces,” according to Rio.
The DICT will be providing assistance to the common tower providers in facilitating permits, right of way, and provide other government support for infrastructure should they secure a contract with any of the telco operators.
For his part, Suresh Sidhu, Chief Executive Officer of EDOTCO Group, has committed to build at least 10,000 towers as he believes that the common tower policy being pushed by the DICT will ensure the expansion of coverage of telco services at a lower cost for consumers.
“It’s an amazing opportunity from the towers, you get the first benefit for people; coverage. You get the second benefit for operators; lower cost. And actually you get the third benefit for the country which is community benefits.This initiative will benefit telco operators and the communities we will be serving,” according to Sidhu.
The DICT is set to sign another MOU with China Energy Engineering Group on Friday.
Last December, the department has signed deals with local firm ISOC Infrastructures Inc. and Singapore’s ISON ECP Tower Pte. Ltd
ISOC Infrastructures has proposed to build 25,000 towers within seven years, with a budget of PHP100 billion, PHP20 billion of which will be invested in the first three years. The company tapped OCK Vietnam Pte Ltd. as technical partner for the common tower project.
For its part, ISON has committed to deploy as many as 15,000 towers in five to seven years amounting up to USD800 million.
The DICT eyes to implement a common tower policy that will allow more tower companies to build and deploy cell sites and other facilities that will be leased to telco firms, which may then use them to improve their delivery of service.
Stakeholders in the industry have expressed their view that allowing the entry of more providers would promote competition, benefitting consumers through improved communication services.
The Philippines currently has 16,000 cell sites against 67 million Internet users, giving it the lowest cell site density in Asia.
The lack of cell towers has been identified as one of the barriers to affordable and consistently reliable Internet services in the country. (With reports from Catherine Datiles-OJT/PNA)