Award of unused frequencies to 3rd player eyed

August 25, 2018

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is eyeing to award the unused frequencies of telco giants PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom to the next major player in the industry.

This, as the DICT conducts its review on the frequencies that were awarded to the dominant telco players as it seeks to ensure that these are being utilized to deliver quality communication services to the public.

DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said that spectrum user fees may be adjusted for telcos to efficiently use their frequencies.

"We need to come up with a way to determine the efficient use of frequencies that are already awarded. If enough frequencies were given, we need to determine the data traffic and the number of subscribers. If these are low, that means that you are not using it efficiently. Therefore we can tell that only this amount of frequencies should be awarded for your present and future subscribers. Over and above the frequencies that were awarded, we can increase the spectrum users fee so that they will be forced to return them,” Rio said in a mixture of English and Tagalog on the sidelines of the public hearing on the draft terms of reference on the entry of the third telco player held in Quezon City Thursday.

“Unused frequencies may be reassigned to the third telco,” he added.

Spectrum users fee are collected annually from mobile service providers that were assigned frequency bandwidth based on the amount of spectrum used, type of service being offered and economic classification of the areas covered by cell sites.

The DICT official said it is pushing for a legislative measure that will strengthen guidelines on the distribution and use of frequencies by telcos.

“We are advocating for equitable distribution of frequencies as a law. This can be strengthened through law. We have frequencies farming; frequencies sharing. We just need more guidelines. Currently, penalties are not clearly defined, thus, we need a legislative act on this,” Rio said.

The DICT issued a directive last June ordering the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to conduct a review on spectrum user fees being paid by telecommunication firms in a bid to improve the state of mobile services in the country.

The directive comes amid the rapid growth of new technologies and preparations for the entry of a new major player in the local telco industry.

Department Order No. 003-2018 directs the NTC to review and make appropriate adjustment on spectrum user fees for 610-790 megahertz (MHz), 790-960 MHz and 1710-2025 MHz radiofrequency bands to ensure efficient spectrum use.

“Due to the rapid growth of 3G and 4G mobile, as well as the global trend towards 5G, it has become necessary for the DICT to encourage and promote the use of currently allocated frequencies, such that spectrum user fees shall be applied uniformly and without discrimination to all users under the same classification or category,” the order read.

The DICT earlier said it is seeking to draft a framework for the reallocation of frequencies currently being held by existing telco players by the end of this year.