San Miguel cuts off rival access to frequency band
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - San Miguel Corp. (SMC)  is not in favor of giving telco firms Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom Inc. access to the 700 megahertz (Mhz) frequency band held by the firm, citing the need to promote competition in the market.

“They have more than enough frequency between them. They have almost 300 Mhz of LTE frequency. Why do they need more? All they need is to improve and fine-tune what they have,” SMC president Ramon S. Ang told reporters yesterday.

Ang made the comment following PLDT and Globe’s call to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to facilitate the equitable distribution of the unused 700 Mhz frequency band held by SMC through an auction to provide better Internet service to customers.

SMC, which is in discussions with Australia’s largest telephone firm Telstra for a joint venture on the wireless business, holds 90 Mhz of the total 100 Mhz on the 700 Mhz band through wi-Tribe Telecoms Inc.’s 80 Mhz and High Frequency Telecommunications Inc.’s 10 Mhz. The remaining 10 Mhz is held by New Century Telecommunications.

The 700 Mhz is seen as the key to providing faster Internet speeds and addressing the mobile data explosion as it is located above the remaining TV broadcast channels, allowing signals to easily go through buildings and walls and covering larger areas with less infrastructure needed as compared to frequencies in higher bands.

Ray Espinosa, regulatory and policies head of PLDT said existing players can improve Internet service to consumers by being given their fair share of the 700 Mhz band.

Globe general legal counsel Froilan Castelo said “giving active and operating telecommunications companies access to this band will allow the industry to provide broadband and data services at faster speeds and in a more cost-efficient manner.”

Ang said the 700 Mhz is necessary for SMC to be able to operate its wireless business.

NTC director Edgardo Cabarios said the agency is lukewarm to the proposal of PLDT and Globe citing the need to promote competition in the market.

With a new player to break the duopoly in the telco industry, Ang said consumers are expected to benefit in terms of lower prices and better services.

“It (service) will now improve for sure,” he said.

Asked on the potential partnership with Telstra, he said discussions are still ongoing.

Telstra chief executive officer Andrew Penn said earlier the company is looking to invest nearly $1 billion for the wireless business in the Philippines, if and when it proceeds with plans with SMC.

“Our estimate would be an investment from Telstra (which) would be less than $1 billion,” he said.

Should SMC decide to pursue its wireless business, Ang said the focus would likely be on postpaid and broadband.

SMC is engaged in the telecommunications business through companies Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc., Bell Telecommunications Philippines Inc., Liberty Telecoms Holdings Inc. and Vega Telecom Inc.

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