DICT says it will await Supreme Court ruling on Bayantel frequencies

2 Aug 2018

According to local press reports, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in the Philippines says the dispute involving the third-generation mobile frequencies held by Bayan Telecommunications Inc. (Bayantel) – which is now owned by Globe Telecom – is in the hands of the Supreme Court, although it expects a decision to come soon – perhaps in September. DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio, Jr is quoted as saying that National Telecommunications Office (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba had confirmed with him that the contenders for that frequency, Globe Telecom, ABS-CBN Convergence and NOW Corp, had agreed to withdraw their petition. However, Rio later clarified that this was in error as NOW Corp is still fighting for its case.

BusinessWorld notes that the fifth and last 3G slot that the NTC is looking to take over is a disputed frequency awarded to Bayantel by an appellate court in 2010. However, the decision was questioned by the NTC and raised to the Supreme Court, until Mr Rio said in May this year that the parties had agreed to resolve it out of court. A settlement is now expected by the end of September or early October, around the time that DICT hopes to finalise the selection process for the country’s new third telco. Acting Secretary Rio says that this does not necessarily mean that Bayantel’s 10MHz block of 3G spectrum will be awarded to the new entrant, though, and pointed out that Globe – the company with the most 3G mobile subscribers – currently holds only 10MHz of 3G spectrum, compared to PLDT’s Smart Communications with 25MHz, and the third player, which is set to be awarded 15MHz. ‘So, once we obtain control of Bayantel’s 10MHz we have to decide if everything will be given to the third telco. If we do that, Globe will have only 10MHz, the third telco will have 25MHz, PLDT-Smart will have 25MHz. So, it’s unfair to [Globe], and we don’t want that to happen. The distribution has to be equitable,’ he said. The government is currently working on the final draft of the terms of reference to be used for the selection of the third player. Once finalised, this will be issued as a memorandum circular that will guide the oversight committee in the process.