DICT asks NTC to draw up rules requiring MNOs to unlock phones after initial contract period

17 Dec 2018

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in the Philippines is promulgating a plan to make it easier for mobile users to switch service provider, by compelling mobile network operators (MNOs) to unlock their phones after their contract period expires. The move, which comes ahead of the entry of a third telco player Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co (Mislatel), was issued in a memorandum order dated 14 December 2018, and directs the industry regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to come up with new rules to achieve it. The DICT’s memo also coincides with moves by legislators in the Philippines to pass a new mobile number portability (MNP) law that will allow subscribers to keep their old numbers when switching providers; Philippines Senators, Sherwin Gatchalian and Aquilino Pimentel III, called on Congress in August 2018 to speed up the approval of legislation, including changes to the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, which would facilitate MNP. With such measures pending, the government’s willingness to now push ahead with new unlocking rules are seen as key ‘preparatory steps’ after the NTC last month confirmed a venture between China Telecommunications, Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp, as the so-called New Major Player (NMP).

The NMP has said it is committed to matching the coverage of the de facto duopoly – PLDT Inc. (incl. Smart Communications) and Globe Telecom – within three years. In the aftermath of being nominated as the third telco, Mislatel reportedly pledged to cover 37% of the country in its first year and 70% by year three, promising to expand its footprint to 84% of the population by the end of its fifth year in operation. ‘Globe and Smart, now in their 20 years of operations, up to now they only covered up to 70% of the country,’ Acting Secretary of the DICT, Eliseo M. Rio Jr. said, noting too that the newcomer has also ‘promised to deliver internet speed of 27Mbps in its first year’, with Mislatel spokesperson Adel Tamano adding: ‘We are not burdened by obsolete technology. We will be bringing in new tech, latest, most innovative technology. In fact, we are looking to bring in 5G’.