AS MORE CELL SITES ARE BUILT: Restrictions stall network upgrade

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    With community quarantines implemented across the country, the PLDT Group has asked the government’s help to gain access to 300 sites in Metro Manila and key provinces to conduct installation, repair and upgrade of its network.

    In a letter to Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, the PLDT Group appealed for the local government units (LGU) and other concerned sectors to grant the company access to its facilities within their respective areas to conduct critical works.

    Areas currently inaccessible due to community quarantine measures include Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Palawan, Iloilo, Capiz, Samar, Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga del Norte.

    With different levels of community quarantine in place nationwide, restrictions imposed by some LGUs have impacted the PLDT Group’s performance of critical activities such as service restoration, maintenance, installation works, capacity expansion, replacement and upgrade of critical facilities, and other urgent work.

    Alfredo Panlilio, Smart Communications Inc. president and chief executive officer and PLDT chief revenue officer, earlier emphasized the importance of working with government in improving telco services.

    “The initiative of government to make it easier for us to build more towers quicker will be a big help in terms of improving coverage,” Panlilio said, following the government’s issuance of 211 building and preconstruction permits to Smart since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued a joint memorandum circular in August that cuts the processing time and requirements to build towers.

    Panlilio said towers are but one portion of PLDT-Smart’s integrated network, which also includes 360,000 kilometers of fiber infrastructure, around 10,000 macro and micro-cellsites and over 20,000 Long Term Evolution base stations, in addition to data centers and partners for international capacity.

    “That’s the kind of large-scale network that you would need to build in order to offer a competitive service,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Colfinancial.com expects a surge in the number of cell sites in the country with the passage of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

    The law suspends for a period of three years the requirements to secure permits (excluding building permits) for the construction, repair, operation, and maintenance of telecommunications and internet infrastructure. All applications for cell sites and similar telco facilities must also be approved or disapproved within seven days from date of application.

    Colfinancial said the process usually takes an average of eight months given the numerous government requirements.

    In late-August, Smart Communications said it has signed an agreement with six tower companies and is finalizing agreements with four more to build a pilot batch of almost 200 macro cell sites to support its network expansion program while

    Globe Telecom Inc. said said it is on track to build 900 cellsites with five shared telecommunications tower companies (towercos).

    DITO Telecommunity Corp. said it plans to spend P27 billion next year to construct 3,500 fourth generation sites and 1,500 5G sites by next year on top of the 1,300 towers it is currently building. (With R. Castro)