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Internet rights group pushes for open competition in telco industry

MANILA — An Internet rights advocacy group is asking the government to urge the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to review the telecommunication deal of PLDT, Globe Telecom and San Miguel Corp (SMC) and provide guidelines that will reallocate radio frequencies to allow the entry of new competitors in the industry.

Internet 20 / Image courtesy of People's Daily

Internet 20 / Image courtesy of People’s Daily

Democracy.Net.PH explained that an open competition in the telecoms industry will provide consumers more options for faster and affordable Internet access.

Engr. Pierre Tito Galla, co-founder and co-convenor of Democracy.Net.PH, stated that the present telecoms industry is dominated by PLDT/Smart and Globe Telecom which control radio frequency waves or spectrums that are crucial in the operation of mobile Internet services in the country.

The group stated that with the acquisition deal of Globe and Smart of the 700MHZ frequency band of SMC, they already own nearly 80 percent of the total available spectrum, according to the National Radio Frequency Allocation Table (RFAT).

The remaining 20 percent of spectrum is not allocatable as some of them are considered as guard bands to prevent interference of radio signals.

“With the existing spectrum available for allocation, there is not enough spectrum to be attractive for the entry of just one potential new player,” according to Galla.

Thus, the PCC is reviewing the PLDT/Smart-Globe-SMC deal and the PLDT/Smart-Globe spectrum co-use agreement as there is not enough spectrum that would allow the entry of a new competitor.

However, this was delayed by a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA) 12th Division even as another CA division already ruled that the PCC is mandated to conduct a review.

Democracy.Net.PH reiterated that the government should allow the consumers to use the spectrum for the public good. Re-allocation of spectrum should have guidelines to ensure that no potential new competitor is blocked from entry, especially when there is little or enough available spectrum to be had.

“Competition is a necessary driver to ensure the objective of making Philippine telecommunications faster, more reliable, cheaper, and more accessible across the country. Healthy competition in a level playing field can only be ensured by the active oversight of the appropriate branches and agencies of the government,” the group stated.