Telecommunication companies urged the Philippine Competition Commission to look at San Miguel Corp.’s control over the entire 700 megahertz band, saying it is “anti-competitive.”
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and Globe Telecom Inc. have repeatedly requested since 2008 and 2005, respectively, for an allocation of the 700 MHz frequency from the National Telecommunications Commission, which has not acted on the requests.
The two companies stressed the need to distribute the unused frequency to help bridge the gap in Internet speeds between the Philippines and other countries in Asia.
“We hold that position that the 700 MHz frequency should be reallocated for the benefit of the country and the industry. We have been calling on the NTC to do this since 2005 and we will continue to exert all effort to get that reallocated,” Globe legal counsel Froilan Castelo said.
“In an era of very scarce spectrum resource globally, we should be utilizing all our resources in delivering high speed data to our customers,” he said.
Castelo said the Philippines and Thailand were the only countries in the Asia Pacific region with major issues that prevent the allocation of the 700 MHz band to mobile broadband technologies.
“We continue to call on the government and our regulators, in particular, to ensure the equitable distribution of that spectrum throughout the industry,” Castelo said.
PLDT and Smart Communications head of public affairs Ramon Isberto described San Miguel’s possession of the entire 700 MHz band as “anti-competitive.”
He called on the government to reassign the 700 MHz to other existing telecommunication companies.
Spectrum is the “real estate” on which telecommunication operators develop their respective network to deliver services to customers. The amount of spectrum assigned to a company impacts on the cost of building capacity, overall network performance, ability to offer new multimedia services and general customer experience of wireless services.
Using the 700 MHz will allow the deployment of a high-capacity LTE based wireless and fixed broadband network to deliver higher data rate and LTE wireless broadband service.
With the use of the 700 MHz frequency, broadband prices can go down, further benefitting consumers.
The companies’ statements came at the heels of the announcement that former Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan was named the first chairman of PCC, which is tasked with ensuring fair competition in the business sector, and preventing anti-competitive agreements, mergers or acquisitions that substantially restrict competition, and foster abuse of dominant position.
Balisacan said one of the sectors the PCC would focus on is the telecommunications industry, which includes a study of the 700 MHz issue and how San Miguel was able to obtain and maintain control of the scarce frequency in spite of calls for a public bidding.
The need for the PCC to act on the frequency issue is made more critical by the glaring lack of NTC action, despite moves by other countries to reassign the use of 700 MHz frequency band from broadcast TV to mobile telephony.