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Court intercedes to stop NTC’s frequency reallocation

5 Jun 2009

A Manila court has stepped in to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from reassigning frequency bandwidth in the 1710MHz-1720MHz and 1805MHz-1815MHz bands from wireless in the local loop (WiLL) use to broadband wireless access (BWA). Local newspaper the BusinessMirror reports that the court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) which is valid for 20 days commencing 26 May. It is understood the TRO stems from an application and writ of preliminary injunction filed against the NTC on 23 April 2009 by Trans Digital Excel Inc, the creditor turned major shareholder of Filipino telecoms operator Express Telecommunications Company (Express Telecom). Trans Digital’s case rests on the argument that the reallocation plan will lead to signal interference in Express Telecom’s frequency bands (1720MHz-1725MHz/1815MHz-1820MHz), which are for GSM services and are adjacent to those being reassigned by the regulator.

Although the NTC’s reallocation plan is only at the proposal stage, Trans Digital is looking to protect its telecoms asset which is preparing for a comeback. Express Telecom is the Philippines’ oldest cellular firm and is in the process of migrating from analogue to GSM technology to compete with mobile giants Smart Communications (owned by PLDT) and Globe Telecom. Trans Digital says commercial operations are slated to begin by August 2010. Express Telecom has set aside USD1.3 billion for CAPEX to fund its ten-year network rollout plan to be financed through debt and equity. It is looking to secure a significant position in the cellular market by building a network of 5,365 base stations over ten years. Express Telecom’s GSM platform will utilise its existing spectrum in the 925MHz-935MHz band alongside its newly awarded frequency spectrum in the 880MHz-890MHz band. The cellco also plans to use its other frequency assignments, which remain valid and existing, such as 835MHz-845MHz; 1815MHz-1820MHz; and 1720MHz-1725MHz.

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