Filipino conglomerate San Miguel Corp (SMC) is readying itself to become the country’s fourth mobile operator, when it launches services via its Bell Telecommunications (BellTel) unit – acquired via its 100% owned subsidiary Vega Telecom in July 2010 – by January 2016. Manila Standard Today cites a BellTel filing with the industry regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), confirming it has signed supply agreements with contractors for equipment and software related to the build-out of its mobile network infrastructure.
If successful in its plan, BellTel would become the fourth mobile network operator (MNO) in the Philippines, after the PLDT Group (Smart and Sun Cellular), Globe Telecom and digital wireless trunking operator NOW Telecom (formerly Next Mobile). It would also face competition from established mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) ABS-CBN Mobile. TeleGeography notes that BellTel was licensed to provide commercial communications services in January 2002 and launched operations later that year. It initially focused on rolling out services to the central business district (CBD) of Makati City and special economic zones (SEZs). The company holds a range of licences, including permits for local exchange carrier (LEC), international gateway facility (IGF), inter exchange carrier (IXC), very small aperture terminal (VSAT), and internet service provider (ISP) services. BellTel currently provides fixed line, internet, leased line and data services and has a particular emphasis on delivering services to the CBD where 70% of the country’s commerce is conducted. In addition, SMC also owns Liberty Telecoms Holdings, which offers wireless broadband connectivity via its subsidiary Wi-Tribe Telecoms, and internet and data services provider Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc (ETPI).
As part of its mobile rollout plan, BellTel says it has formally integrated 197 base transceiver stations (BTS) in the country’s National Capital Region, following which the NTC has reportedly issued it with 191 radio station licences (RSLs) for the provision of mobile communications services. In the filing, SMC said: ‘BellTel will be applying for additional RSLs as soon as more BTS are integrated into its mobile network and will launch services as soon as sufficient coverage for a commercial launch is achieved,’ going on to note that to date, it has ‘expended considerable capital in relation to the acquisition and construction of sites as well as the acquisition and installation of core and radio access network equipment and software’.