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PLDT, Globe wary of government’s plan to reallocate frequencies

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By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo, Reporter

PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. are wary of the plan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to ensure a more “equitable” allocation of frequencies in the telecommunications industry, particularly when a third player comes in.

PLDT Chairman, CEO and President Manuel V. Pangilinan said the public should “give careful attention” to the possible reallocation of frequencies, adding the 700 megahertz (MHz) spectrum acquired by PLDT and Globe from San Miguel Corp. in 2016 are already being “extensively used.”

“That’s a serious matter of public interest. I think we should give careful attention to that particular subject matter. So far as we’re concerned, we are clearly using extensively the frequencies we acquired from San Miguel. They’re actively, extensively used by Smart, Sun, Talk and Text,” Mr. Pangilinan told reporters on Jan. 10.

Globe Senior Vice-President for Corporate Communications Yolanda C. Crisanto said the telecommunications company is using the 700 MHz spectrum “to serve the public.”

“As an incumbent, the number of customers we currently serve is our basis for the spectrum we have. Even in the buyout of the 700 MHz assets, we returned a good number of spectrum to the government on the basic principle that this resource should be used for public good. What the government should avoid from happening again is that any single entity holds a large number of spectrum and does not use it to benefit the public,” Ms. Crisanto said in a text message.

PLDT and Globe in 2016 acquired the telecommunications assets of SMC, including the coveted low-band 700 MHz.

The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) earlier estimated only 12.8% of the spectrum will be available for a potential third player in the country.

This is why the DICT is looking at allocating the remaining uncommitted frequencies to a third player, which could possibly be structured as a consortium.

Mr. Rio told reporters last month the DICT does not favor distributing the remaining frequencies to many players, which might lead to buyouts by PLDT and Globe.

Public hearings for spectrum reallocation are expected to be conducted by the middle of February, Mr. Rio has said.

Mr. Pangilinan said PLDT welcomes the possible entry of a third player, and continues to prepare for this.

“But also the main job for us is to really build a superior network for fixed and wireless, to ensure the service is world-class. We said late last year that we would show that with the level of capex that we would announce, hopefully soon enough, that would be north of P50 billion, that is a historic high for PLDT, to demonstrate that we’re getting serious about not only our wireless network but also our fixed (line business),” Mr. Pangilinan told reporters.

Mr. Pangilinan said capital spending on fixed broadband will see “significant increments” compared to 2017.

Globe is keeping its capex flat for 2018, retaining the $850-million capex of 2017. The company said the budget will be used primarily to meet demand for bandwidth-intensive content.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.