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Singapore Firm Joins Common Telco Tower Plan

A Singapore-based firm on Friday became the second company that signified its formal interest to participate in the Department of Information and Communications Technology’s (DICT) common tower initiative.

A spokesperson for ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd. said they sealed a memorandum of understanding with the DICT, which earlier opened the door to companies seeking to address the lack of cell towers in the Philippines.

The DICT, under Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., had adopted a policy to support common tower providers so long as they first seal a commercial contract with a telco provider. Only then will the DICT provide support such as helping facilitate permits, right-of-way and the use of government-owned infrastructure.

That policy, however, had come in conflict with the common tower rules being drafted by the office of presidential adviser Ramon Jacinto. The rules are expected to be released in the first quarter of 2019, Jacinto had said.

Jacinto also noted that his office was in talks to implement the guidelines with Sen. Gregorio Honasan II, who told reporters in November last year that he had accepted President Duterte’s offer for him to eventually lead the DICT.

Rio had also signed a similar MOU last Dec. 20, 2018, with ISOC Infrastructures Inc., owned by businessman Michael Cosiquien. ISOC’s technical partner is Malaysia’s OCK Group Berhad.

ISOC is the same group that submitted a P100-billion offer in July last year to build 25,000 cell towers within seven years. This will help close the gap between the 70,000 towers industry players said were needed and the roughly 16,000 towers being operated by PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom at present.

For its part, ISON had earlier proposed to spend up
to $800 million to build as many as 15,000 towers in five to seven years, its spokesperson said.

The rift between the DICT and Jacinto’s office revolved around provisions in the draft rules that barred telco providers from building new towers and from having any ownership in the common tower companies.

Rio had said he was wary about legal challenges facing those provisions.

Moreover, the draft common tower rules sought to limit the common tower providers to just two in the first four years. Jacinto said this would help the tower companies sustain their operations.

In a statement this week, Sen. Grace Poe said she would take legal action to fight this provision, calling it anticompetitive.

All stakeholders, however, acknowledged the need for tower sharing. This would also help existing telcos lower costs, given the expensive and time-consuming nature of building towers, while helping the rollout initiatives of the third telco player.―INQUIRER

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