President Rodrigo Duterte’s ambitious plan to fast-track a third operator into reality by March 2018 by ordering the swift approval of its licence application seems to be unravelling with the news that the government now hopes to name the telco before the Holy Week or in late March, with the formal selection process set to start next week. Local press cites Eliseo Rio, officer-in-charge of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), as saying that the would-be challenger to the effective duopoly of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom will be required not only to secure the requisite congressional franchise, but also commit to spending at least PHP500 billion (USD9.9 billion) over five years to get the business off the ground. Referring to the not insignificant capital required, Rio said: ‘That’s the major consideration. How are they going to be competitive if they can’t match Globe and Smart in terms of spending?’
With China Telecom and Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp (PT&T) having expressed interest in setting up the third player, and with rumours emerging of interest from an as yet unnamed South Korean player, formal invitations to bid are expected to be issued by the DICT next week while the terms of reference for the bidding will be released on 19 February. The bidding will start by the first week of March, Rio confirmed. The DICT official added that around 32 companies with franchises are eligible to bid, including PT&T and Converge ICT, while a number of other firms without franchises – including Villar Group and ZTE’s TierOne – may opt to partner with a company that does have one.