Government and private sector telco stakeholders have agreed to devise strategies that will expand connectivity and enhance customer experience, acknowledging the existing barriers hindering widespread access to life-enabling technology.
Globe Telecom Inc. President Ernest Cu said there is a need for a collective approach in achieving equitable connectivity across the nation.
“The telcos cannot do it alone. We are very large facilities but we have over a hundred million people to connect. The government is doing its share, alleviating requirements and permits and giving incentives.
We need members of the private sector who are very much interested in furthering the connectivity agenda. It’s only by working together that we can come up to speed with other countries out there that are truly digital,” he said at the Globe RISE 3.0 event.
Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) Secretary Ernesto Perez echoed this sentiment, highlighting the government’s commitment to facilitating connectivity advancements.
“Our goal is to cover the entire country for the Philippines to be really called a digital nation and to be able to say that we can provide the kind of services that are streamlined and digitalized in order to fight corruption in the process,” he said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that only 56.1 percent of Filipino households have internet access at home. Disparities in internet speeds between urban and rural areas also persist according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), with wealthier cities experiencing significantly faster speeds compared to their less affluent counterparts.
A Philippine Institute for Development Studies paper in 2021, meanwhile, showed that access to fiber optic cable was available in only 29 percent of barangays across the country, with rural barangays making up a meager 12 percent of these fiber-connected areas.
Meanwhile, PhilTower Consortium President Devid Gubiani pointed to the crucial tower-user ratio affecting user experience.
With 17,850 cell sites serving 76 million internet users in the Philippines, Gubiani emphasized the need for shared infrastructure to ensure ubiquitous connectivity.
“We need more hands on deck. Shared infrastructure is key to providing ubiquitous connectivity. We can potentially enable much better service for more Filipinos but also a much broader coverage. It’s about depth and it’s about coverage.”
For his part, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Jeffrey Dy outlined the government’s initiatives, including crafting policies on common towers and common poles. Dy also mentioned the exploration of a “Dig Once” Policy to minimize street-level disruption during infrastructure projects.
“Connectivity is the lifeblood of a digital nation. Let us forge collaboration that allows us to build a digitally empowered Philippines that is inclusive, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, as directed by DICT Secretary Ivan Uy under the vision of our President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. No one gets left behind.”
Mitch Ora, Site Lifecycle Management Services Vice President at Globe, said there is a need for approximately 40,000 more towers to achieve the ideal tower-user ratio.
She said Globe continues to pursue innovative infrastructure models, such as tower-sharing and fiberco, to enhance connectivity.
“If connectivity improves, consumers will enjoy multiple benefits, including in the worst of circumstances,” said Bill Luz, Chairman of Liveable Cities Philippines and Chief Resilience Officer of the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation.