Telco bags 13K permits for network expansion

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    PLDT Inc. and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. have secured around 13,000 permits for fixed and wireless network expansion since the government streamlined the permitting process last year.

    PLDT and Smart’s continued investments in their fixed and wireless networks, alongside government efforts to streamline the permitting process, will contribute greatly toward creating a digitized and competitive country, Roy Ibay, Smart vice president and head of regulatory affairs, said at Stratbase ADR Institute’s virtual town hall, Building Digital Infrastructure for a Digital Philippines.

    Since the joint memorandum circular fast-tracking the issuance of permits was released last year, PLDT and Smart have secured around 13,000 fixed and wireless permits, Ibay added.

    However, he said problems persist in the form of unjust and excessive regulatory fees imposed by some local government units and homeowners’ associations, as well as unnecessary permit applications at the barangay, municipal and city level.

    “We hope that our government will continue to provide a healthy telecom regulatory environment that will encourage investment just as it incentivizes competition. This will certainly lead to a digital infrastructure revolution,” Ibay said.

    Emmanuel Rey Caintic, Department of Information and Communications Technology undersecretary, said the government has been implementing progressive regulations and policies that are focused on easing regulatory burdens.

    “The current digital infrastructure in the Philippines is not enough to realize fast and affordable internet in the country, and one of the major issues is the regulatory constraints faced by the telcos,” Caintic said.

    As of end-2020, Smart has rolled out more than 10,000 sites and over 59,000 base stations, as its mobile networks cover 96 percent of the population. PLDT has expanded its fiber footprint to over 429,000 kilometers, the most extensive in the country.

    PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021 to meet customers’ growing data demand.

    PLDT has extended the reach of its fixed broadband service with 9 million homes passed, while the total number of available fiber-powered ports increased to 4 million.

    In 2021, PLDT aims to further expand its fiber network by 125,000 km. and add 1.7 million ports. – Myla Iglesias