NOW Telecom (formerly Next Mobile), a Filipino telecommunications company controlled by the Velarde family, is reported to be interested in launching a challenge to the country’s de facto duopoly Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and Globe Telecom, and has asked the government to assign it with requisite mobile frequencies. Mel Velarde, president of NOW Telecom, told reporters: ‘We received the CMTS [cellular mobile telephone service] licence as early as 2006, but they never gave us mobile cellular frequencies. The politically favoured telcos accumulated frequencies. Under the Duterte administration, [however,] we have a chance to get the frequencies.’
Velarde went on to say that his company submitted a request to the regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last July, for issuance of mobile cellular frequency, ‘whatever is available’, and suggesting that the telco was in the position to roll out mobile services ‘in a year’, once the NTC has granted its request. ‘Let’s say we get frequencies now, we can activate in a year’s time at first around 300 cell sites,’ Velarde told journalists, noting that a single cell site would cost about USD150,000 and confirming that if it goes ahead, NOW Telecom will focus on mobile data services. ‘People are willing to pay for quality data. I think there is room for a premium mobile cellular player in the country,’ he said.
The operator is said to be keen to explore tie-ups with other parties, including international investors, to get the service off the ground, arguing that pent up demand has created a gap for a third player to fill. Further, Velarde said that NOW Telecom is eying the 700MHz bandwidth surrendered by PLDT and Globe, as well as ‘3G frequency and other mobile frequencies’ potentially up for grabs. Its parent group, Now Corp, has launched a broadband service in the Philippines with guaranteed connections of up to 700Mbps, targeting enterprises.