SMC’s Wi-tribe unit wins bid to keep telecoms frequencies

23 Jul 2012

Wi-tribe Telecoms, the nascent 4G/WiMAX unit of San Miguel Corp’s (SMC’s) Liberty Telecoms Holdings, has won a court case in the Philippines allowing it to hold on to key wireless frequencies that had previously been allocated to broadcaster Exodus Broadcasting Corp. The Court of Appeals sided for Wi-tribe in its ruling, with Associate Justice Socorro B Inting, as quoted by local news site Business World, saying that the court had denied Exodus Broadcasting’s application for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction against wi-tribe Telecoms, ‘there being no irreparable injury that the petitioners stand to suffer if the writ is not granted.’

The broadcasting group had filed a suit looking to reclaim its unused frequencies, which had been allocated to Liberty Broadcasting Network, now known as wi-tribe Telecoms. Exodus Broadcasting had been granted provisional authority by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to install, operate and maintain a multi-point, multi-channel distribution system (MMDS) in August 2003. However, with no developments forthcoming and with the temporary permit expiring in February 2005, the NTC reallocated the frequency to the then Liberty Broadcasting Network.

The court decision is welcome news to Liberty Telecoms Holdings which has set aside PHP1.1 billion (USD26.3 million) for its 2012 CAPEX plan to complete the rollout of a 4G wireless network in the country. Specifically, Liberty is hoping to finish its Metro Manila deployment and start expansion works in Northern and Southern Luzon. To date, the fledgling system is only available in Mega Manila, which includes the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal, Wi-tribe said. The 4G provider, which is a joint venture between SMC and Qatar-based QTel, closed out 2011 with 70,000 subscribers and 500 base stations. It reported a net loss of PHP1.68 billion in FY11, compared to a loss of PHP1.15 billion in FY10.