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NTC announces 3G/4G frequency tender in latest bid to lure third player

17 Oct 2016

The Philippines’ National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has announced its intention to run an auction for 3G and 4G mobile frequencies in early 2017, claiming that interest exists from a number of groups to become the nation’s third player. The Inquirer newspaper quotes NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba as saying that the auction – the first of its type in the regulator’s history – will likely receive some form of backing from the World Bank. ‘Early next year, we can put this together,’ Cordoba said, going on to suggest that the tender would need the thumbs up from the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). According to the NTC, the auction would aim to sell off a range of frequencies, including those returned to the government by dint of two merger deals in recent years. Furthermore, Cordoba says the NTC would likely sell 10MHz of 3G-suitable spectrum previously held by Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprise (CURE); the frequencies had to be relinquished by PLDT Inc. after it bought out Digital Telecommunications Philippines in 2011.

Confirming the plan to sell a ‘full set’ of 3G and 4G spectrum, Cordoba also suggested that companies already holding frequencies would be barred from the process – i.e. limiting it to new players – although he noted that several factors would need to be ironed out before the tender could go ahead. Crucially, the NTC needs to resolve the legal dispute between the anti-monopoly body, the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), and incumbent operators Globe and PLDT over the telcos’ joint acquisition of the telecoms assets of San Miguel Corp (SMC) in May this year. The outcome of the case could involve the final ownership of mobile frequencies, including 20MHz of much-coveted 700MHz spectrum, which PLDT and Globe contend are theirs.

The NTC official claims to have received expressions of interest (EoI) for mobile frequencies, including one from NOW Telecom. Its boss, Mel Velarde, claims NOW should have been assigned 3G frequencies back in 2006, given it already held a concession for cellular mobile telephone services (CMTS). ‘We are awaiting [the] frequencies we deserve, which should have been given [to us back in] 2006 when we got our CMTS licence, which was renewed in 2015,’ he said. ‘Requiring us to bid for frequencies is illegal and corrupt practice,’ he added.

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