DICT official confident of NMP launch by mid-2019, despite concerns

11 Jan 2019

Eliseo Rio Jr., the acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in the Philippines, has said that the country’s New Major Player (NMP) – currently Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel), which is undergoing a post-qualification process – will be operational by the middle of this year, despite ‘concerns’ raised in a legal case over the selection of the so-called ‘third telco’. The DICT official has moved to reassure the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte that Mislatel is expected to emerge from the 90-day post-qualification phase in good shape and fulfil Duterte’s stated aim to break the de facto duopoly of PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.

For its part, Mislatel – the joint venture of China Telecom, Davao tycoon Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp and its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp – has called on unsuccessful bidders in the NMP process to partner it to achieve a faster rollout of facilities. Indeed, in a statement issued on 20 November 2018, Mislatel Consortium spokesperson Adel Tamano said: ‘In fact, even telco players that did not win the bid or decided not to bid, such as PT&T, Converge, etc. can partner with us and we can use their existing telecommunications facilities for a faster rollout’. Echoing this, Rio has gone on record as saying that one of the best ways Mislatel can comply with its commitments is to use all existing facilities and services of the other small players, such as ‘the tens of thousands of kilometres of fibre-optic cables of PT&T and Converge ICT, the satellite network of Chavit Singson’s SEAR and the fibre-over-the-air of NOW, etc.’ The DICT acting secretary added that while PLDT and Globe tend to treat these smaller players like customers, Mislatel ‘can treat them as partners, even sharing its facilities and frequencies with them’.

Meanwhile, in additional moves to improve the telecoms landscape, Rio noted that: ‘Pending laws will soon be enacted like number portability, open access, PSA allowing more than 40% foreign ownership of telcos, equitable distribution of spectrum and spectrum management reform, etc., that will make possible the entry of a fourth, even a fifth major telco player’.