WE would like to correct the erroneous claims in the front-page opinion piece of Mr. Ben D. Kritz published by this paper last February 6 ["Another first: PH cell phone ownership costs highest in Asean”], particularly with respect to the disposition of the 700-MHz radio frequency band among telecom operators.
In his article, Mr. Kritz says Globe and PLDT “almost immediately” filed petitions with the National Telecommunications Commission “demanding the break up of San Miguel Corp.’s … 90% share of the 700 MHz broadcast spectrum” in response to rumors that Australian telco Telstra Corp. Ltd. would pair up with San Miguel to set up a new telecoms service in the Philippines. He added that these moves were “almost entirely kept from the public.”
The fact is both Globe and PLDT have long-pending applications before the NTC for an allocation of the 700 MHz frequency. In the case of PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, its first application dates back to 2008 – a good seven years before Telstra announced that it was in talks with San Miguel for a possible venture in the Philippines. Smart and its subsidiary Smart Broadband have since written the NTC a total of 8 letters to follow up their applications.
Rather than acting secretively on this matter, PLDT has in fact been very public about its concern that the NTC has thus far failed to act on its various applications all these years.
This lack of action has become more glaring in recent years because governments all over the world have been reassigning the use of 700 MHz frequency band from broadcast TV to mobile telephony. Governments have taken this action to help bridge the “digital divide,” as the 700-MHz band is well suited to mobile data technologies and will make it easier and faster to deliver internet services, even in rural areas.
We also take exception to the statement of Mr. Kritz that PLDT head of regulatory affairs Atty. Ray C. Espinosa “went so far as to boast that the company would lobby President BS Aquino 3rd” regarding the 700 MHz band issue.
What Atty. Espinosa said was that PLDT would bring the matter to the attention of the Office of the President, which has supervision over the NTC, in case the Commission fails to act on our application for a 700 MHz allocation and our numerous follow up letters.
Our position on this matter has been consistent. Since 2008, we have asked that:
1) The 700-MHz radio frequency band be reassigned from broadcast TV to mobile telephony. Up to now, the NTC has not taken action on this matter.
2) The said frequency be equitably distributed in a transparent manner among existing operators and new entrants.
This position is entirely consistent with the fact that the telecommunications industry has been liberalized and open to competition since the mid-1990s. More importantly, it will help improve Internet services in the country and benefit businesses and consumers, especially those in rural areas.
What is anti-competitive is the present situation where San Miguel controls the entire 700 MHz band, as well as substantial unutilized chunks of radio spectrum in other frequency bands through various corporations.
Ramon R. Isberto
Head, Public Affairs
PLDT and Smart Communications