The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in the Philippines plans to publish a new policy document by Q1 2019 that would allow it to take back and redistribute mobile spectrum frequencies currently allocated to the country’s incumbent operators, which Philstar says could pave the way for even more telcos to enter the market. Outgoing DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M Rio, Jr., is cited as saying: ‘There will be laws that will come out in the first quarter of next year that will redistribute frequencies more equitably … The frequencies are a very limited resource that have been awarded. Once we take back the frequencies, we [could] have a fourth, even fifth telco.’ However, the official added an important caveat that radio spectrum would not be pulled if the owner of the bandwidth proves that they ‘serve a certain number of subscribers’. For example, Mr Rio pointed out that the DICT could look to measure how many 2G subscribers an operator has – numbers for which are generally getting smaller – and recall 2G frequencies should that figure fall below its threshold.
The paper notes too that the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has said that regulatory reforms are needed to ensure that the newly anointed New Major Player (NMP) is able to compete against the de facto duopoly – PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom. Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co (Mislatel), the consortium of China Telecommunications, Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp, has been declared the NMP and provisionally awarded spectrum at 700MHz, 2000MHz, 2100MHz, 2500MHz, 3.3GHz and 3.5GHz. However, PCC Commissioner Johannes Benjamin R Bernabe points out that the ‘majority of the frequency is still held by the two incumbents’ pointing to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC’s) finding from June 2018 that 30.32% of frequencies are owned by PLDT, 24.9% by Globe, with a further 39.35% classed as unassigned or under litigation, and about 5.41% remaining. Mr Rio hopes the proposed redistribution policy will help ensure a more level playing field.