Globe awaits clearer rules on common tower providers
Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Telco giant Globe Telecom Inc. has started accommodating discussions with independent common tower providers while it waits for a clearer picture on the government’s rules for its shared telecommunications infrastructure policy. 

“In our franchise we are allowed to build towers, so we announced last year that we are willing to sell all or some of our passive assets. So we’re waiting for regulation before proceeding with that, but in the meantime, conversations with tower companies continue,” Globe chief finance officer Rizza Maniego-Eala said. 

“We were moving very quickly until the regulatory landscape became a bit unclear. Now that things seem to be settling down, we will be restarting talks with these guys very soon. We always maintained the position that to us, the more people to build towers the better,” Globe president Ernest Cu said.

Presidential adviser for economic affairs and information technology communications Ramon Jacinto earlier said the final guidelines for the common tower policy would be issued by his office within the first quarter.

In August last year, Globe secured the approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to establish a separate tower holding company called GTowers, which will operationalize the divestment of all or part of its tower assets through a separate company.

“The whole idea there is these towers will be put up for sale. We don’t know how much ownership, but we expect there will be different bidders. Once they acquire the towers, then they will continue to operate and build moving forward then we can rent from them moving forward,” Cu said. 

“Then there will also be independent tower companies that will build on their own. Hopefully they build it in places we need them to be at,” he said.

Cu said it is not Globe’s preference to build its own towers, as it would rather reserve its capital expenditures for “the radio and the active part of the network than on the passive part.”

However, he emphasized that the company also does not want to be prohibited from constructing its own if it cannot find anyone to build effectively.

“We have very stringent maintenance testing procedures because you never know when calamities hit, when emergencies hit, when power goes off. So we need to be able to ensure the continuity of service throughout. That’s why we are very cautious in saying that we want as many, but we would be making sure that we uphold them to very high standards when it comes to both build and operations,” Cu said.

So far, the Department of Information and Communications Technology has signed separate memoranda of understanding (MOU) with eight aspiring common tower providers, namely ISOC Infrastructures Inc., a company chaired by Megawide Construction Corp. co-founder Michael Cosiquien, ISON ECP Tower Singapore Pte. Ltd., Edotco Group Sdn Bhd and RT Telecom Sdn Bhd of Malaysia, IHS Towers, China Energy Equipment Co. Ltd. Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. and MGS Construction Inc.

The DICT is set to sign MOUs with three more international tower providers this week to bring the total pool to 11.

The MOUs indicate that the DICT is considering the capability of these companies as a common tower provider and for them to get the government’s full support, they must first secure an agreement with at least one telecommunications operator in the country for the use of the common towers that they will build.

Last month, Jacinto softened his stance on his controversial proposal that limits the number of independent common tower firms in the country initially to two, but maintained that a certain cap should be put in place.

He said he is now willing to let go of his initial proposal and allow up to four tower providers to operate in the country.

Globe has earlier opposed Jacinto’s proposal, saying that limiting the building of towers to two-player independent tower companies unfairly discriminates against the other models and is contrary to best practices.

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