Philippines to end mobile spectrum hoarding
Fri 24 Feb 2017
The government of the Philippines has vowed to crack down on companies engaging in speculative spectrum hoarding, threatening to recall and possibly auction off unused bandwidth to third-party players.
Radio frequencies are used for telecommunications, but are also necessary for military security systems, weather radar and satellite communications systems. Because of this, the government of the Philippines assigns specific frequency spectrum to telecommunications providers and requires that the assigned bandwidth be used efficiently.
The National Telecommunications Commission has released the results of an audit of assigned mobile frequencies. The purpose of the audit was to weed out those companies that are holding assigned and unused radio frequency bandwidth for speculative purposes.
The NTC found that while most companies complied with federal regulations, several had unused bandwidth, and some had unpaid fees associated with assigned bandwidth as well.
The audit found that 17 firms were neither using assigned frequencies or paying the associated fees, and that nine groups were using bandwidth but not paying fees. Of those, the majority were government agencies.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has asked companies to explain the unused bandwidth, or unpaid fees on assigned assets. If warranted, the DICT will issue a recall of frequencies which may then be reassigned or auctioned off to the current two mobile services providers, Globe and PDLt, or may even be auctioned off to new entrants to the country’s mobile telecommunications market.
The NTC has already planned an auction for the middle of this year, to provide bandwidth to companies interested in entering the Philippines telecom market. Initially, the government planned to auction off spectrum that was surrendered as part of Globe and PLDT’s acquisition of San Miguel Corp’s telecommunications assets. Now, spectrum that is assigned to other companies but remains unused may be added to the auction as well.
As of last December, the NTC already had five different parties interested in bidding on bandwidth, in the hopes of becoming the country’s third mobile services provider. Now Corporation, one of the bidders, is currently seeking a foreign partner to help break into the market. The government has estimated that in order for a third party to break the Globe/PDLT duopoly, a third party entrant would have to invest at least $600 million in the first two years for an effective rollout of services.