The Philippines is the only country in the Asean,region where the government does not provide any infrastructure funding support for the telecommunication or telecom sector, leaving subscribers and industry players alike at a severe disadvantage when compared to their regional counterparts.
Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) reported at the recent Philippine Telecoms Summit that all other Asean countries have telecom networks that are either wholly-owned, partly financed or operated by their respective governments.
It is only in the Philippines that broadband networks are constructed, owned and operated by private companies.
This underscores the urgent need for a national broadband network (NBN) to deliver fast Internet service to far-flung areas.
The program, recently approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, would establish a National Government Portal and a National Broadband Plan, as well as accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies throughout the country.
This is in accordance with President Duterte’s push for improved communication capabilities and services within the Philippines.
Cordoba cited Singapore, where the government finances the telecom infrastructure and is constructing an ultra-high national fiber broadband network in partnership with the private sector.
The National Broadband Plan in Malaysia, on the other hand, was deployed way back in 1998.
Its NBN is operated by Telekom Malaysia, which is 80 percent owned by the government.
Myanmar’s telecom infrastructure is also government-owned, while Thailand’s government is investing $1.1 billion to enhance its national broadband network, which is being rolled out by government-owned companies.
The principal telecom firm in Cambodia, Telecom Cambodia, is a state-owned corporation.
Also, major telecom companies in Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Brunei Darussalam are either partly or wholly-owned by their governments.
Fiber optic cable networks in the four countries are also expanded through public-private partnerships and are mainly funded by the government.
Industry comparisons show that about half or 19 of 37 telecommunication operators in the Asean region receive some form of support from their respective governments.
Telecom operators with government interest include Progressive Cellular in Brunei Darussalam; Mentone in Cambodia; Telkomsel and Indosat Ooredoo in Indonesia; Lao Telecom, Unitel and Beeline in Laos; Telekom Malaysia and P1 in Malaysia; Myanmar Post Telecom in Myanmar; Singtel of Singapore; and Truemove H of Thailand.
Local operators PLDT and Globe had cited the importance of government support in the deployment of telecommunication infrastructure most especially in rural and far-flung areas, which pose significant business viability concerns.
In addition to investments in “missionary routes,” telecommunication operators also need government support in minimizing, if not eliminating, bureaucracy in relation to the permitting process for ICT-related infrastructure such as cell sites.
These were among the challenges that the NTC and the Department of Information and Communications Technology said they would help address moving forward, in cooperation with legislators, local government units and other stakeholders. JING VILLAMENTE