13 More Companies Plan to Build Telco Towers

Thirteen more firms have expressed interest in constructing shared telecommunications towers, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), as reported by the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Initiating an easy application process, the department has introduced an online platform, in which interested companies can submit requirements. The mandatory documents will determine if the tower companies have relevant construction experience, business license, and financial capacity to deliver the infrastructure projects.

Some of the compulsory documents include SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) registration, articles of incorporation, by-laws, BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) registration, and latest audited financial statements. Once registered, firms can use the virtual portal to track the status of their application.

Under the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, government offices must follow the maximum time period for the release of necessary permits, clearances, and certifications.

Currently, DICT has existing agreements with 24 tower companies, the majority of which are foreign-owned. Calling the additional applications a “welcome improvement,” the department hopes that the move will contribute to the improvement of internet services in the country.

Earlier, DICT promised to have 10,000 WiFi hotspots in different parts of the country by the end of the year. Remote areas will be the priority in the free internet services.

Move Towards Better Connectivity

Aside from DICT, other government agencies take part in improving internet services in the country. The Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), for its part, has revised its guidelines for the documentary requirements of information and communications technology infrastructures.

A key update in the policy is in the acquisition of consent from concerned stakeholders. Rather than getting consent, companies can simply submit a certification asserting that there is no other available or suitable site within the coverage area that would offer better connectivity. An undertaking about social preparation among the concerned homeowners is likewise mandatory.

Meanwhile, the Bayanihan 2 bill will suspend certain permits for the construction of cell towers, according to Sunstar. Once it becomes a law, telecommunication companies only have to secure a building permit and the height of cell towers along flight paths of airplanes. 

The suspension will last for three years, with the assumption that the period will be enough to finish the facilities needed to improve internet services.

On top of this, there’s a pending legislation in the Senate that sets a minimum standard for internet connection speed, as reported by Manila Bulletin. Senate Bill No. 471 or the Bilis Konek Act proposes a minimum internet download speed of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) for mobile broadband and internet access, and 20 Mbps for fixed and fixed wireless broadband and internet access.

New Normal Demands

As the coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay home, better connectivity has been more important than ever. In the case of property seekers, high-speed internet emerged as essential. 

According to Lamudi’s latest trend report, The Outlook on the Residential Market: Property investment as a safe haven during a crisis, Wi-Fi is one of the top-searched amenities on the platform. Buyers are looking for homes that offer connectivity amenities, as virtual events and work-from-home setups became the new normal during the community quarantine.

In the recently concluded installment to Lamudi’s Roundtable Series, On the Horizon: Real Estate Leaders on Market Recovery, Tomas Lorenzo, President and CEO of Torre Lorenzo Development Corporation, pointed out, “Besides the usual location, product quality, amenities and building management, [buyers] are really looking for the best high-speed internet that you can offer.”

These new demands come at the heels of the boom in online businesses amid the pandemic, the majority of which operate in homes. According to this Manila Bulletin report, the number of registered Philippine online businesses grew more than 40 times in the last five months. It reached over 75,000 in the first week of September, a sharp increase from the 1,700 recorded in March.

Given the work-from-home set-up and rise of online businesses, the private sector calls for the accelerated improvement in internet services. 

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry advocates the issuance of an executive order (EO) that would fast-track the upgrade of internet connectivity in the country, Malaya reported. 

According to the organization, an EO on Satellite Access Liberalization will help internet service providers build their network using satellite technology without a congressional franchise.

Sources: PNA, Sunstar, Manila Bulletin

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