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RJ insists on having 2 independent tower companies limit despite protests of stakeholders

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Presidential adviser on ICT and economic affairs Ramon Jacinto insisted on pushing for a maximum of two independent and private tower companies only in the rules of the first-ever common cell tower policy despite the opposition of various stakeholders.

During the first public consultation on the common cell tower policy at the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Jacinto said two companies during the initial phase is a more viable approach.

 Companies interested in building telecommunication towers strongly opposed the measure in the draft guideline of limiting the cell site building activities to only two independent and private tower companies.

 American Tower Co. (ATC), Telenor Group’s Grameenphone Ltd., and Frontier Tower Associates openly expressed their objections against the proposal of Jacinto.

 American Tower Corp., one of the six interested foreign tower companies present during the public hearing, expressed its disapproval to the policy guideline proposal of Jacinto of assigning only two private companies.

 Manish Kasliwal, chief business officer for Asia of American Tower Corp. said that he is hopeful that the “final rules allow more than two tower providers”.  “We need more companes if you want a reliable industry,” Kasliwal said.

Under the draft policy, the building of cell sites will be assigned to a maximum of two independent tower companies which will be chosen by selection process which is yet to be created.  The draft guidelines also stated that telcos can no longer participate in cell site building except if the tower company is unable to do so 30 days after the request was made.

Frontier Tower chairman and CEO Patrick Tangney said that two companies do not make sense you know. “To limit it to only two tower companies will result in failure of agreements. So my suggestion is not to limit it to two tower companies,” Tangney said.

 A tower company from Norway, Telenor, assailed Jacinto’s proposal by asking to remove the cap on the number of providers that want to help the country’s increase the number of cell sites in the Philippines.

 The Philippines has only 16,000 cell sites and needs 50,000 cell sites more to serve the 67 million Filipino internet users and to catch up with neighboring countries like Vietnam which has 65,000 cell sites.

 Even advocacy group Better Broadband Alliance lead convenor Grace Mirandilla-Santos questioned Jacinto and DICT on why the government would want to limit the participating tower companies. “The tower companies are finding it viable to have more, we are they limiting it to two?” Mirandilla-Santos said. The Advocacy group asked the legal basis for having only two independent tower companies.

 The draft policy rules stated that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will award licenses to two tower companies for the first four years after the policy is implemented.

 Froilan Castelo, General legal counsel of Globe Telecom, also expressed his doubts on how an independent tower company can ease out the major problem of building cell sites which is bureaucracy. “They are private companies, the same as us, and they are going to face the same problems,” Castelo added.

The rules also stated tower companies are independent of mobile network operators and the telcos must not own any equity in the tower firms to promote tower sharing, non-discriminatory access, uniformity, and transparency in the leasing arrangements.

Permitting issues and the lack of standard amount of tower fees at the LGU level have been identified as the reason for the lack of cell sites in the country. It takes 25 permits and eight months to build one cell site.

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