PLDT may seek Aquino intervention in resolving 700Mhz spectrum issue

December 23, 2015 at 14:46

PLDT may seek Aquino intervention in resolving 700Mhz spectrum issue

By Daphne J. MagturoReporter | Posted on December 21, 2015 09:05:00 PM

PHILIPPINE Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) again asked the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for an “equitable” distribution of San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) 700 Megahertz (Mhz) spectrum, but this time warned that it will elevate the matter with President Benigno S. C. Aquino III if the regulator still fails to act on its request.

PEDESTRIANS walk past the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) logo in the financial district, Makati City on Aug. 4. — AFP

“If the NTC failed to act on our latest follow-up letter, we will write to the Office of the President, and bring the issue to the attention of the President,” PLDT Regulatory Affairs and Policy Head Ray C. Espinosa toldBusinessWorld on the sidelines of a company event at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City.

Asked when the company may elevate the matter to Malacañang, he replied: “We just sent today the letter to the NTC, so it depends on how they will act on it.”

The 700 MHz spectrum is owned by San Miguel, which is currently in talks with Australia’s telco giant Telstra Ltd. Corp. for a wireless joint venture in the Philippines.

“The 700 MHz spectrum is imbued with public interest because all over the world this scarce frequency has been reclassified for mobile telecommunication use from broadcast use,” Mr. Espinosa said.

“Today the 700 MHz remains assigned for broadcast use and the entire spectrum is in the hands of and controlled by Wi-tribe Telecoms, Inc. (formerly Liberty) and related companies,” he added, referring to wi-Tribe, one of the telco units of diversified conglomerate San Miguel.

“This situation is untenable because the 700 MHz spectrum is a crucial State resource in enhancing mobile internet speed and quality in the Philippines and as such should be equitably assigned to existing and new mobile telecommunication operators in order to allow as many Filipinos as possible to benefit from the technological advancements on this frequency,” Mr. Espinosa said.

Sought for comment, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said in a mobile phone reply: “Need to verify.”

The NTC has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Aside from PLDT, rival Globe Teleco has also repeatedly urged the NTC to reassign the 700 Mhz band designated to SMC “to ensure a more equitable sharing of spectrum among telco players in the country.”

PLDT and Globe have said the fair reallocation of the frequency would address the soaring demand for high-speed Internet in the Philippines.

The planned Telstra and San Miguel tie-up is expected to challenge the duopoly of PLDT and Globe. Earlier, San Miguel President Ramon S. Ang said the SMC-Telstra venture will offer voice, text and internet services with focus on mobile-broadband services.

When asked last month for comment on whether the group is willing to give up its allocation, Mr. Ang said: “They want to take what we have so we can no longer operate, but we should have some left for our business… Our intention is not to engage in a fight, we just want to improve the service offered to the public.”

PLDT is one of the Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd. Hastings Holdings, Inc. — a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. — maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.

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