THE government is losing as much as a quarter of a billion pesos in telecom revenues each year with the unused 700 megahertz bandwidth owned by diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), a representative from Globe Telecom (Globe) said on Monday.
“The government is losing P250 million in annual spectrum user’s fees,” Globe director for policy division Ariel Tubayan said at a forum in Makati Monday morning.
He said the Philippine telecommunications industry is losing large amounts of money which could have been generated from the usage of the bandwidth.
He added that the industry is missing out on the possible contribution of telcos to the overall economic growth of the country.
Tubayan explained that if the 700 MHz spectrum were used to its full potential, the government could earn income that can be used for public welfare and social services.
He noted that the reallocation of the controversial bandwidth could contribute an increase of up to 10 percent in the gross domestic product (GDP) because it can be a driver for investments.
But with the embargo of the 700 MHz spectrum, the country is stuck in a rut in terms of income and digital growth, he said.
Tubayan said Globe finds the National Telecommunications Commission’s (NTC) reluctance to redistribute the spectrum baffling. He noted that the current policy in the telco industry does not seem to allow for free and fair competition.
The Philippines’ two biggest telco players — Globe and Philippines Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) – have long been asking the NTC to redistribute the 700 MHz frequency owned by SMC.
SMC was supposed to launch its own telco unit in partnership with Australian telecom giant Telstra Corp., but earlier this year SMC announced that the deal was off. However, SMC said it would still be launching a broadband internet service business.
Amid the tug-of-war, Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) head Arsenio Balisacan said that the government is set to draft an in-depth study of the telco industry to look into the loopholes that prevent healthy competition among players.
“We are conducting a study of the competition environment,” Balisacan said, adding that they are preparing an assessment paper which the private companies can look at.
“In many of our industries, inefficiencies are mostly coming from the policies of the government,” Balisacan said.
He said the study will serve as guidance for the conduct and analysis or understanding of the competition problems in this particular industry.