DICT approaches UNDP to help with rollout of free Wi-Fi service

28 Aug 2018

Philippine News Agency reports that the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has approached the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as it seeks to drum up support for its planned rollout of free internet services throughout the country via its nationwide Wi-Fi programme. With the agency determined to see the government building infrastructure in areas that are not ‘prioritised’ by telcos, DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said: ‘We are seeking the help of the UNDP to bring in foreign companies and technology to set up a National Free Wi-Fi Network, to train our people and telcos on rollouts done in other countries with very successful Free Wi-Fi programmes.’

Rio claims that the country’s dominant operators, PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom, lack the capability to provide Wi-Fi hotspots with sufficient bandwidth in public places, and clarified that their business models focus on developing infrastructure in economically viable locations. ‘Their business model has always been to roll out their infrastructure to where they get the most paying subscribers. The Free Wi-Fi locations are mostly in public places that never were in their business plans to put internet connectivity. So, their connections were limited to places where they have already commercial point of presence but unfortunately reaches a very small percentage of where we want our Free Wi-Fi zones to be,’ he said. As such, DICT believes that the government must step in and invest in telecommunication infrastructure to pursue its own programme of initiatives and not merely depend on local commercial telcos.

Specifically, the government is allocating PHP280 million (USD5.25 million) to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity in 112 state colleges and universities nationwide under the proposed PHP3.757 trillion budget for 2019. In addition, a further PHP1.16 billion has been ring-fenced for the installation of 10,800 free Wi-Fi hotspots countrywide. To date, the DICT has installed around 1,592 free Wi-Fi sites across the country through opening its bidding to ISPs that are ‘mostly serving remote areas’. It now targets 6,881 sites across the Philippines by the end of 2018.