The government of the Philippines is looking to pull together a number of relevant institutions as it looks to usher in an interim broadband plan to improve the country’s underdeveloped internet access market. With high speed data services seen as key to the development of industry – both for large companies and for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) – the administration has pulled in the National Telecommunications Director (NTC), the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) to consider how the industry must move forward. NTC director Edgardo V. Cabarios told the BusinessMirror: ‘The National Broadband Plan is being drafted. We are proposing several items on the plan, which should identify three areas: first, areas where the government should put up infrastructure; second, where the government should subsidise; and, last, areas where the private sector can freely compete in the market.’
The NTC official went on to say that the review will take particular care in ensuring that areas seen as less economically appealing to operators are not overlooked. ‘You cannot leave everything to competition. There are small areas the government will have to invest in if we want to improve the state of our internet services today,’ he said. Cabarios pointed out that the NTC-led broadband blueprint, marks ‘a five-year plan for the next administration’, that will ‘identify the most important areas we need to address and identify how much we need to invest’.
The country’s two dominant service providers – Philippines Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) and Globe Telecom – are spending an average PHP80 billion (USD1.7 billion) per annum to develop their broadband (fixed and mobile) networks, but Cabarios notes that their focus is in the main limited to urban and suburban rollouts. ‘To put up infrastructure in rural areas, easily, you have to invest about PHP30 billion to PHP100 billion. The needed capital is huge,’ he said. Mobile broadband connection is intermittent in rural areas, and some home broadband services are also not being offered by telcos to certain areas in the provinces.