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NTC close to decision on 3G licences; says low usage may hinder rollout

25 Apr 2008

Jorge Sarmiento, the deputy commissioner of the Philippines’ telecoms watchdog the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), has said the agency is close to delivering its verdict on the appeal by four telecoms operators who failed to secure 3G licences in December 2005. ‘We will resolve, in about two months time, the appeals of the other telcos aspiring for 3G licence—either dismiss or give them due course,’ Sarmiento is quoted by local press as saying. However, he went on to say that even if the UMTS frequencies are allocated to one of the four applicants, it is doubtful they will use them in the short term because of ‘the low take-up of 3G here.’

The four unsuccessful bidders – BayanTel, AZ Communications Network, MTI, Next Mobile and Pacific Wireless – each submitted appeals to the NTC in January 2006, asking it to reconsider their bids for the solitary unallocated licence. The filings asked the regulator to reconsider their plans to offer 3G services, after NTC hinted that it might opt to tender the last concession to applicants that failed during the first round. However, Sarmiento says that, given that only two of the four cellcos that did receive 3G licences in 2005 have thus far introduced commercial services (i.e Smart and Globe), it is doubtful that the fifth licensee would make use of the permit anyway. In an interview with Computerworld Philippines the NTC deputy commissioner said: ‘Way back then, everyone thought the business [3G services] to be good but it wasn’t … And so I doubt if the 5th [licensee] would roll it out. I just doubt, because the test here is the business take up.’

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