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Philippines telecom sector split on spectrum reallocation

20/01/2016 by Paul Clayson


The telecom sector in the Philippines is split on how spectrum should be reallocated, with telcos arguing that it should be distributed based on the number of subscriptions and scale of use, reports.

Detailing the disagreement, Grace Mirandilla-Santos writes that other telecoms stakeholders say this would do smaller players and new entrants a disservice, as they would not be able to get a slice of the pie on that basis.

They feel that it would be fairer for the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to open up more unlicensed frequencies in order to allow small providers to offer internet service.

It's not clear what NTC's thoughts are on how best to reallocate spectrum, but it's apparent that it's not going to be drawn into a snap decision, calling the frequency reallocation a difficult, "quasi-judicial process."

The dispute relates specifically to the 700-MHz band held by San Miguel Corporation (SMC). SMC currently holds 90 MHz of the total 100 MHz on the 700-MHz band, but PLDT and Globe wants to see that stronghold removed.

However, as Mirandilla-Santos notes, there must be a reason to recall the spectrum from SMC, such as non-utilization or non-payment of spectrum user fees – none of which SMC are guilty of.

By law, spectrum allocation in the Philippines must to be done through an open tender and auction, following the standard government bidding process, but no bidding has ever been carried out by NTC to allocate precious spectrum.

NTC suggests the reason for this is that supply for spectrum has always exceeded demand. Meanwhile, it thinks it will be detrimental for spectrum to go to the highest bidder, as the prevailing telcos would pass on the cost of purchase to subscribers.

Telcos may point to Thailand to shoot down the NTC's claim, with subscribers enjoying one of the most affordable mobile broadband services in Asia. That is despite the country recently witnessing an 87-hour long auction for the 900-MHz license, which earned the Thai government a whopping $4.2 billion.


NTC, Telecoms & Internet, Philippines

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