The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has renewed the Cellular Mobile Telephony System (CMTS) licence of NOW Corp affiliate NOW Telecom, allowing it to provide a range of cellular services to the Filipino public. The concession ‘extends authority to install, operate and maintain an effective and economical telecommunications network, including mobile telecommunications, data and voice telecom network, trunked radio dispatch communications system, digital trunked radio system, and telecommunications operations’. The authority granted last week also includes the upgrade of its existing system to a nationwide wireless communications network which will provide mobile telephony communications and multimedia transmission capability to all cities and municipalities nationwide. However, with NOW Telecom currently ramping up plans to become the Philippines’ fourth major operator, a spokesman for the NTC poured cold water on its plans, suggesting that it believes it can only realistically provide such services in ‘niche markets’.
Following the licence renewal, NOW Telecom president Rodolfo P Pantoja said: ‘We have been providing guaranteed broadband to enterprises including the government sector. We reiterate our belief that at present, there is an insufficiency in telecommunications facilities that can effectively address the needs for day-to-day real-time operations and at the same time provide disaster mitigation during time of emergencies,’ adding that NOW Telecom is one of only four firms to hold a CMTS licence in the Philippines – the others being PLDT-Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, DITO Telecommunity and ABS-CBN Convergence. Pantoja also praised the approval as a clear sign of the government’s efforts in promoting competition by further liberalising the telecommunications industry, noting that his company’s network upgrade ‘would provide an affordable and reliable option for day-to-day wireless communications needs of enterprise and some sectors of the general consumer [segment]’.
However, NTC deputy commissioner Edgardo V Cabarios suggested NOW Telecom may find it hard to compete in a domestic mobile market dominated by the de facto duopoly of PLDT-Smart and Globe, and soon to see the arrival of fresh competition in the shape of new third telco DITO Telecommunity. ‘There are so many players in the market in the first place, but when we talk about mobile there are only three major players,’ he said. Cabarios went on to point out that with a limited 20MHz allocation of bandwidth in the 3.5GHz band, NOW ‘really cannot compete’, but could target a niche market.