In a bid to grab a slice of the valuable 700MHz frequencies owned by San Miguel Corp (SMC), the Philippines’ two biggest operators, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and Globe Telecom, have asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for access to the bandwidth. The pair argue that allowing them access to the 700MHz band would enable them to improve mobile broadband internet speeds for their end users, saying that SMC currently has an unfair allocation of spectrum by dint of its acquisitions in the Philippines. Conglomerate SMC owns rights to use the band through its telecoms units Wi-Tribe (Liberty Telecoms Holdings) and High Telecommunication – its so-called ‘ace in the hole’ – as it contemplates launching a mobile joint venture with the backing of strategic partner, Telstra of Australia. SMC also owns the Filipino telcos Extelcom, Eastern Telecommunications Philippines (formerly ETPI) and Bell Telecommunications (BellTel), helping to ramp up its presence ahead of the 2016 launch.
PLDT’s head of regulatory affairs Ray Espinosa says that the NTC should reallocate the 700MHz band to give everyone the opportunity to deliver better internet services. ‘So if we want the mobile, the internet to be faster, to provide better quality service to consumers, PLDT Smart and Globe and the others should have access to this 700MHz [band] which is a very scarce resource. All over the world, this particular spectrum is being made available to existing operators as well as new entrants and there is no reason why PLDT and Smart cannot be given access, especially if they are highly unutilised,’ Espinosa said.
SMC owns rights to a total block of 90MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band, split between Wi-Tribe (80MHz) and High Telecommunications (10MHz), while another telco, New Century Telecommunications, owns the remainder (10MHz). In Espinosa’s opinion: ‘100MHz assigned and held by three companies is just too much. There [are] a lot of subscribers out there already pining for faster mobile internet service[s] and we can solve that … if we are also given some access to that. That is something that we have been seeking; the intercession of NTC … to give us access on an allocation to that very scarce frequency.’