Express Telecom looking to kick-start cellular business

3 Feb 2009

Filipino operator Express Telecommunication Company is reportedly planning to resurrect its cellular business by asking the telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for additional frequencies to service its proposed re-launch. The debt-laden operator has approached the NTC notifying it of its intention to pursue 10MHz of frequency spectrum in the 1900MHz band. Local newspaper BusinessMirror reports that while Express Telecom’s request had not yet been acted upon, the head of the NTC’s frequency management division Priscila Demition said the petition is pending. ‘I think they will use the frequencies to help them in their planned comeback. Their request is for cellular use,’ she told the paper.

Meanwhile, NTC director Edgardo Cabarios has confirmed that Express Telecom can apply for additional frequencies even though it has not been fully active in the domestic cellular market for ‘some years’ now due to its financial problems. ‘Anyone can apply but acting on an application is another issue. Even if they are under rehab, they can file with the commission for an application of their choice,’ Cabarios is quoted as saying. Express Telecom still owns and operates an analogue AMPS network using 10MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band. It was awarded an additional 5MHz in the 1800MHz band in September 2001 but is largely inactive with just several thousand subscribers registered. Express Telecom’s existing frequencies are thought to be very much sought after because these can be used for 3G services. A number of other Filipino 3G players, including Globe Telecom, Smart Communications and its subsidiary Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise (CURE), have already expressed interest in taking Express Telecom’s unused frequencies.

Express Telecom’s spectrum holdings have meant that it is an attractive prospect for buyers; the firm is currently in the process of being acquired by San Miguel Corp, even though it is currently buried under PHP9 billion (USD189.5 million) worth of debt.