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‘Tower sharing of telcos a big boost’

An opposition leader in the House of Representatives on Saturday is counting on “shared wireless communications towers” to help boost Internet connectivity all over the country.

“The immediate beneficiary of new common towers will of course be the third telecommunications player that the government is bringing in precisely to drive competition in the supply of superior Internet services,” Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said.

Campos, a deputy minority leader, made the statement ahead of the Nov. 7 opening of bids for the would-be third player which will be awarded all the licenses and radio frequency bands needed to compete with PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc.—the country’s two dominant Internet service providers.

“We support every initiative that will help quickly improve public access to faster Internet connection speeds at a lower price,” Campos said.

“Assuming we have independent private firms putting up new towers for collective use, the third player should be able to quickly scale up service coverage, since it can opt to just lease the new structures,” Campos said.

The third player would spend less to build fewer towers on its own, thus enabling it to spend more for faster network expansion, according to Campos.

“As a business model, tower sharing is nothing new. In fact, one of the Fortune 500 firms is American Tower Corp., which owns and operates over 170,000 shared wireless and broadcast communications sites in 13 countries,” Campos said.

Campos has been batting for the reclassification of Internet access as a “basic telecommunications service” so that regulators may compel suppliers to provide rising connection speeds under pain of severe punitive fines.

Under House Bill 5337, Campos wants the National Telecommunications (NTC) empowered to regulate both the quality and the cost of Internet access by tagging it a basic service.

At present, the 23-year-old Philippine Public Telecommunications Policy Law treats Internet access as a “value-added service” rather than a basic service. Thus, suppliers are relatively free to provide the service on their own terms.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has already received an unsolicited proposal from a private firm that plans to construct wireless towers for shared use.

The proposal was submitted by ISOS Infrastructures Inc., a firm chaired by Michael Cosiquien, one of the founders of Philippine Stock Exchange-listed Megawide Construction Corp.

ISOS Infra has offered to invest up to P100 billion over the next seven years to build 25,000 towers nationwide that could be leased by all telecommunications firms.

Even the government might end up spending less to install the national broadband network once the shared towers are in place, Campos said.

Topics: House of Representatives , shared wireless communications towers , Internet connectivity , Rep. Luis Campos Jr. , PLDT Inc. , Globe Telecom Inc.
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