DICT accelerates free internet goal

    Aggressive rollout. The DICT aims to have provided free WiFi in approximately 104,000 public sites.
    Aggressive rollout. The DICT aims to have provided free WiFi in approximately 104,000 public sites.

    The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is set to expand the fiber network in the country in the next three years to provide free internet access.

    This is part of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), a DICT flagship project that aims to deploy pervasive broadband connectivity in distant, remote places of the nation by utilizing and converging public-private resources.

    Gregorio Honasan II, DICT secretary, said by 2022, the DICT aims to have provided free WiFi in approximately 104,000 public sites through different strategies, such as partnership with the private sector and tapping satellite broadband services, among others.

    This could be achieved through the deployment of a national broadband backbone that will deliver fast internet connection to 104,000 access points all over the country.

    In the next three years, DICT will activate approximately 111 nodes using National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ (NGCP) spare fiber to cascade capacity to identified growth areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, Honasan said during his speech at the recent Innovation Forum in Makati City.

    “It is also in our future plans to build at least 20 cable landing stations with more than a thousand kilometers of submarine cable laid out to bring in more links to the international gateway,” he added.

    Last June, DICT sealed a partnership with NGCP and the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) to utilize the spare optical fiber to boost the implementation of the NBP.

    Under the agreement, the DICT received an indefeasible right to use and/or access certain spare fiber optic cores, vacant lots, tower space and related facilities of the NGCP, the current concessionaire of the TransCo-owned grid.

    The total length of the dark fiber network is 6,154 kilometers spanning Luzon to Mindanao.

    The NBP is envisioned to give free WiFi services to about 25 million users in unserved areas of the country. This will be a game changer that will radically reduce costs and boost connectivity speeds of the whole government, and enable the adoption of cloud-based solutions to automate operations at all levels of government agencies, DICT said.

    “To complement these, the installation of more communication towers is being accelerated through cooperation with telecommunication companies, with total 104 IP radio systems and 105 repeater systems to be erected,” Honasan said.

    He added that vital to all the build-up is the laying out of fiber in collaboration with electric cooperatives, cable providers and other major stakeholders to connect more government agencies, public schools and colleges, public hospitals and local government units.

    “Ultimately, to ensure that gaps in the network will be addressed and nobody is left behind, a sovereign broadband satellite is proposed to connect communities in hard-to-reach islands and inaccessible mountainous areas by beaming down sufficient capacity,” Honasan said.

    In a related development, the DICT partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) in the implementation of the Government Emergency Communications System (GECS).

    GECS is DICT’s project aimed to provide emergency communications system in disaster-stricken areas to aid responders and authorities in making necessary and appropriate decisions and actions. The project also intends to strengthen disaster preparedness in communities across the country.

    The WFP is the lead agency of the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, a global network of humanitarian, government and private sector organizations working together to provide secure communications, reliable internet connectivity, technical help desk services, among others, in humanitarian emergencies.