End-2019 goal: Break ground for 500 common telco towers

BEFORE the year ends, the government will break ground for the construction of as many as 500 common towers, as the public and private sectors move hand in hand in leapfrogging to better telco services by 2020.

Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said his group has received half a thousand applications for common tower sites spread across the Philippines from five providers.

“We have been making strides in the common tower initiative. We are targeting to break ground for about 400 towers to 500 towers this year, and we have two months to go,” he told the BusinessMirror on Sunday.

Rio listed the five companies that sought the ICT department’s assistance for permitting as: the Aboitiz Group, IHS Group, LCS Holdings Inc., the Isoc-Edotco Group and American Towers. These common tower providers, he said, have received orders from the two incumbent telcos, PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc., as well as new-entrant Dito Telecommunity Corp.

“They are positioned all over the country. Realistically speaking, we can do at least 200 towers, but we are hoping that we can break ground for around 400 towers to 500 towers within the year,” he said.

This development came even after the ICT department, headed by former lawmaker Gregorio B. Honassan II, failed to meet its target of issuing a common tower policy within the year. The office heading the policy formulation is headed by Information Policy Undersecretary Jose Arturo C. de Castro.

Right now, Rio said, “We are continuing the rules and regulations that we have previously issued to fast-track the implementation of the common towers program. We are no longer waiting for the policy, but we are maximixing what we have to be fast.”

He noted, however, that the policy office of the DICT could use existing contracts to cement and strengthen the policy to be issued, referring to the recent groundbreaking of the first shared tower infrastructure in Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. The first tower—expected to be erected in three months—is owned by the LCS Group of politician Luis “Chavit” C. Singson.

“The inputs that we received from pilot will help make the policy be more comprehensive,” Rio said.

The Philippines is at the nascent stages of building new telco towers through the common tower initiative, as it puts premium on the development of the ICT industry, which is seen as huge revenue driver in the coming years.

Currently, the Philippines has 17,850 towers that serve over 100 million subscribers. This translates to a tower density of 0.14 or one tower serving 1,000 subscribers. The ideal tower density is at one tower per 1,000 subscribers.

The government hopes to build as many as 50,000 towers just to be on a par with neighboring countries, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Having more cell towers will provide subscribers better coverage and speed.


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