An infrastructure firm is proposing to build 25,000 towers within seven years in line with a new policy of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to establish common towers that may be leased by all telecommunication firms in order to expand their facilities and enhance the quality of service.
ISOC Infrastructures Inc., the first company to submit a proposal to the DICT, will be allocating P100 billion for the construction of the towers wherein P20 billion will be invested for the first three years.
“We are here to support and provide solution to the telco program of the government — we are providing a common tower infrastructure for the government,” ISOC Michael Cosiquien, chairman of ISOC Infra, said in a press briefing during its presentation of their unsolicited proposal Wednesday, July 25.
Tower sharing is an existing business model in the telecoms industry that has been proven effective in Southeast Asia, the United States, and other parts of the world, said ISOC. The company said it is enlisting technical partners for the common tower project. One of them, OCK Berhad, has experience in areas of operation in Southeast Asia and China.
ISOC Infra is affiliated with ISOC Holdings (ISOC), a company led by Megawide co-founder Michael Cosiquien. ISOC’s infra arm is intended to venture into technology and innovation-based solutions not just in the telecommunications space, but also in other sectors of the infrastructure industry. ISOC also has interests in cold chain logistics, property development, and energy.
For his part, DICT acting secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said a common tower policy will help lower costs of services that telcos provide to consumers and will ensure that the costs of constructing towers will not be passed on to them.
“A common tower provider can provide better prices for the telcos that will bring down the price for the consumers and that is what the President wants. Right now, the services of Globe and Smart are high because they are not sharing towers. They are passing on to the consumers the cost of putting up the towers. Had they shared their towers, then the costs in recovering that tower will make subscription costs lower. This is what we are trying to do now: bring down the costs,” according to Rio.
The DICT official further said that the department will provide assistance in securing permits for the common tower provider. Rio, however, said the ISOC’s unsolicited proposal will still have to be studied well whether it will be placed under a BOT (build-operate-transfer) scheme or public private-partnership (PPP) wherein the ownership of the tower will remain in the hands of the private firm.
Earlier this month, the DICT released its guidelines on the common tower policy, which provides that towers may be leased to existing and new telco players. The DICT hopes to accredit up to two independent tower companies by the first quarter of next year, followed by a six-month building period.
The Philippines has one of the lowest tower densities in the world with less than 20,000 towers serving 100 million people. Approximately 50,000 more towers should be built to serve the current voice and data traffic. The lack of cell towers has been identified as one of the barriers that results in slow and costly Internet services in the country.
Presidential adviser on ICT and economic affairs Ramon “RJ” Jacinto, the primary purveyor of the common tower policy, said the government “will definitely study this tower-sharing scheme as an integral part of providing Filipinos with fast, reliable and inexpensive communication services.”
“We are encouraged by this development and are ready to take charge in the implementation of the tower-sharing scheme for the improvement of the telecom sector. The guidelines will make the sector more competitive, and in the end give Filipino consumers access to faster, secure, and reasonably prices telco services,” Jacinto added.