ROW rules to speed up fiber, cell site network rollout

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    PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc. are set to speed up the rollout of their fiber infrastructure and cell site network in the country with the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) newly-issued rules on right-of-way (ROW).

    DPWH’s Department Order (DO) No. 29 allows telecommunications companies to occupy a portion of the government’s ROW.

    Under the DO, information and communications technology (ICT) service providers are finally allowed to “construct and undertake excavations and/or restoration work for ICT infrastructure projects within the allowable ROW limits of the national roads, as determined by the concerned District Engineering Office and subject to the guidelines provided in this order.”

    PLDT said this will help speed up the rollout and assist in ensuring the timely maintenance of its fiber infrastructure as well as its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc.’s cell sites.

    “PLDT and Smart are committed to working with the government in ensuring continuous service and a great experience for our customers as we keep them safe and connected amid the pandemic,” said Alfredo Panlilio, Smart president and chief executive officer and PLDT chief revenue officer.

    “This collaboration with the government is part of PLDT and Smart’s initiatives to improve the maintenance and operation of its network facilities and advocate for the improvement of the regulatory environment to boost the country’s digital infrastructure,” said Roy Ibay, Smart vice president and head of regulatory affairs.

    Meanwhile, Globe sees faster network builds in the country after the government removed a major bottleneck that prevented telecom service providers from constructing crucial infrastructure projects along national roads.

    “We thank the DPWH for its proactive action as this department order will help accelerate the deployment of ICT infrastructure as the country continues to battle the effects of the pandemic,” said Froilan Castelo, Globe general counsel.

    In 2014, DPWH issued an order prohibiting telecom and power companies from constructing posts along national roads as it “creates imminent danger to lives and properties and hamper relief operations” during calamities.

    Last October 2020, both the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the National Telecommunications Commission asked DPWH to consider the proposed changes to the previous department order.

    Both agencies said the restrictions slowed down the rollout of critical telco infrastructure amid the rising demand for affordable, quality and reliable ICT connectivity, due to the shift to work-from-home arrangements and distance learning as a result of mobility restrictions. – Myla Iglesias