Only 15,000 cell sites serve 140m phones in PH
In the world’s social media capital, there are only 15,000 cell sites covering 140 million phone numbers.
And so it is no wonder that mobile connectivity in the Philippines is among the slowest in the world, with efforts to improve telecommunications infrastructure hampered by misplaced fears on the purported damaging effects of cell sites on health.
National Telecommunications Commission Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba has identified community resistance to the installation of cell sites as among major hurdles to efforts to improve mobile phone and internet service in the country.
The Philippines currently has among the slowest internet speeds in Asia Pacific at an average 4.2 Mbps, just above India. The International Telecommunication Union, the telecommunications body of the United Nations, meanwhile, ranked the Philippines a lowly 105th in the world in terms of information and communications technology in 2015.
“Right now, under the existing law, homeowners associations should give their consent before a cell site or a telecommunications infrastructure is put up inside their village or subdivision,” Cordoba said, addressing the just-concluded Philippine Telecoms Summit 2017.
“But these homeowner associations do not give permits, that’s why there are no cell sites or telecoms infra in their backyard,” he said.
Cordoba said those most vocal against cells sites were curiously the loudest to complain about poor connectivity.
“The problem, too, is that the people who live in these villages are the first ones to complain if they don’t have good connectivity,” he said.
Telecommunications companies face such problems as homeowners associations do not allow the construction of cell sites due to the commonplace fear that they emit harmful radio frequency.
For instance, in the posh Ayala, Alabang, only a single cell site serves the community of 700 hectares. In upscale Makati villages Forbes Park and Dasmariñas Village, there are no dedicated cell sites for the two neighborhoods about 300 hectares in size.
“Clearly, there is a lack of connectivity and service inside these villages—and the people who live there are data heavy users. You can also imagine the complaints that we receive from the people who reside in these villages, but the problem is their homeowners associations do not allow the installation of cell sites,” Cordoba said.