telecom industry

Acting Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. is in earnest to pursue the mandate of President Duterte to have a third player in the telecom industry. Mind you, Rio knows what the public is clamoring for and he has the strategy to deliver what the crafty duopoly deprived the helpless public despite its stranglehold of the industry.

The terms of reference in the search for the third player had been changed a number of times leading to unkind speculations that DICT deliberately delays the selection. Rio knows his turf but maybe the government does not want to go wrong that an oversight committee was created.

Recently, the oversight committee in search of a new player scrapped the draft TOR anew. The committee is not sold to the so-called committed delivery of services from those who aspire to be the third player. I simply understand this to mean that promises or commitments are meaningless and in fact elicit caution.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, a savvy businessman, is correct. There are aspiring telecom firms which do not have a single service installation or a modicum of perceptible operations but by sheer publicity via cute PR strategy make the public believe they are the preferred telco to compete with the duopoly. There is nothing wrong with news dispatches except that these can inveigle investors from buying stocks from what could be just paper corporations! But this just one bone of contention.

Between promises or commitments and demonstrated delivery of telecom services at this point, it is only Acting Secretary Rio who can name the players outside of the duopoly- PLDT/Smart and Globe — which, aside from congressional franchise, have existing resources like frequencies, facilities and accessories, operational and technical organizations and clientele to prove their commitment and programs of expansion.

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If DICT and the oversight committee have a primordial responsibility to the public at this crucial stage of the search for the third player, it won’t harm the public or the government if they now identify the aspirants who have track records and those which have yet to start with the proverbial cornerstone.

Certainly, we do not want to have a repeat of the BW Resource scandal, and Secretary Dominguez is correct in this, assuming that I am correct in my assessment why the oversight committee would not buy commitments.

Rio’s DICT should be given an elbow room to deliver on Duterte’s agenda to have a third telco. When you have a situation in which 45 percent of the country’s geographical area are not served or underserved and the rest of the 55 percent is hankering for an internet speed that is still trying to graduate from the jurrasic dial-up, the din of clamor will not cease. While the delay in the search has accorded the duopoly to shape up their service or equipment, if any, these have yet to be felt.

Definitely, a third player can catch up as it will not be hobbled by heavily capitalized investments which have yet to be fully subscribed. Without the challenge, the duopoly can sleep comfortably in the absence of a lullaby. Remember that PLDT, for one, only had P1.5 billion in paid-up capital so a telecom player with an initial P10-billion plus financial backing and several billions more in assets and ongoing financial transactions can be a big nightmare to these big guys.

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For now, that player is not expected to be in the category of Globe and PLDT/Smart which had long controlled the telecom industry and fleeced their subscribers despite the despicable service and free-wheeling rate that is notoriously known as the most expensive in the world

But in time, given the rapid evolution in the internet of things, the duopoly will not actually matter that much.

In the meantime, there ought to be a synergy between DICT and DOF/Transco.

Between the two agencies, they can deliver the Duterte promise and in the process makes the Philippines to leap frog from the “kangkungan” pond to the clouds.

He who says the third telco player is dead must be out of sync or singing the discordant and nervous tune of the duopoly.