The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said it will quickly evaluate the 50-50 buyout of San Miguel Corp’s (SMC) telecommunications business by the PLDT Group and Globe Telecom Inc.
In an official statement, the commission said it would look at all the business transactions involved in the acquisition of SMC’s telecom unit and internet frequency band by the two telecom giants.
“It is within the powers of the commission to evaluate all business agreements and transactions that may have potential impacts on market competition,” the statement read.
“Because of the strong public clamor for faster, cheaper, and better quality internet and mobile services, and that these could be stymied by a lack of competition in the sector, the commission has a keen interest in this proposed transaction. The commission shall assess and take action as appropriate,” it said.
“We assure the public and the parties that the commission recognizes the urgency of the matter and will move quickly to reach a fair assessment,” it added.
The PCC is referring to the agreement of PLDT and Globe announced on May 30 to acquire 50 percent each of the telecom business of Ramon Ang’s SMC group after talks between SMC and Australian telecom giant Telstra Corp. failed to push through earlier in the year.
The deal will divide the 700 megahertz (MHz) band currently controlled by the SMC Group between PLDT and Globe, and is expected to help boost the internet speed and penetration of both companies.
The unused 700 MHz spectrum of the SMC Group has long been eyed by the two local telecom giants, who have repeatedly called for “fair allocation” of the broadcast band by the government, as the frequency would enhance indoor penetration and overall mobile internet services of PLDT and Globe, who have an average of 300 MHz band each.
Competition act in force
The PCC said it has yet to complete its implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which are expected to be finished next month, but that this will not in any way affect the telecoms investigation.
“We remind the public and the business community that the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act [or Republic Act No. 10667]are fully in effect and do not require the final issuance of IRR to trigger effectivity,” the PCC said.
The commission said they will gather more details on the transactions first, but will refrain from giving out comments that can affect the investigation of the transactions—whether they are subject to anti-competitive practices or not.
“All of the commission’s actions are directed by its mandate to advance consumer welfare and protect the public interest through promotion of fair competition,” the PCC added.
PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said over his Twitter account @iamMVP that the acquisition of the SMC group’s telecom business would be beneficial for the Philippines as it will provide for “stronger, wider internet.”
“Brand new day for Philippine Internet. We now have access to additional frequencies including the 700 Mhz. Smart can bring stronger internet to all soon,” Pangilinan said.
“Stronger, wider internet helps our people with more access to info and the wealth of opportunities connectivity brings. That’s our commitment,” he added.
Pangilinan said some of the 700 MHz acquired will be returned to the government “to ensure a possible entry of a third telco player,” which is an answer to PCC’s woes, and will encourage more competition which will be “good for our industry.”
Globe, also via their Twitter account @enjoyGLOBE, said that with more spectrum for telcos, there would be better internet through the surge of frequency that can give way to building of more cell sites.
“The country currently has slow internet due to lack of cell sites. With this spectrum now unlocked, it will accelerate the improvement of mobile internet services in the country while we continue to build more cell sites,” Globe said.
Globe also said that a wider spectrum translates to faster mobile data browsing speeds, more affordable services, and increase of capacity of cell sites.
Globe also said the “unused frequency assignments will be returned to the government, [which]will enable new players who may want to enter the Philippine market and offer a full range of services to its customers.”