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Information dept issues common-tower rules

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) released on Friday the rules on the rollout of common tower, pushing forward its plan to pursue the tower-sharing market in the country.

DICT chief Eliseo Rio Jr.

Amid the government’s vision to increase the number of cell sites in the country, the DICT said at least 2,500 common towers identified in DICT-owned and other government agencies’ properties, and areas named by existing telcos PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom will be initially built or converted by independent tower companies (ITCs).

“This is the starting point of more comprehensive policy for our initiative on passive infrastructure sharing. This will help tower firms to acquaint themselves in our telco industry,” Acting Information Secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. was quoted as saying in a statement posted on the agency’s website.

The list of the 2,500 identified areas will be given to the ITCs, which have inked memorandum of understanding with the DICT and mobile network operators (MNOs), allowing ITCs and the telcos to conduct surveys of the sites for commercial deals.

Currently, the tower sharing business has enticed 21 potential players. Before they could secure a memorandum of agreement with the DICT, the government is requiring an ITC to be “duly incorporated and validly existing domestic corporation registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.”

The firm itself or a member of its consortium must have at least five years of technical expertise in the said field, or have operated at minimum of 1,000 towers either in the local or foreign market.

The ITC should also be independent or not related to any MNOs “to promote non-discriminatory access and uniformity and transparency in tower leasing arrangements,” the rule read. It also must secure a business transaction to incumbent telco carriers.

Groups that have signed MoU with the DICT include ISOC Infrastructures, Inc.; ISON ECP Tower Pte. Ltd.; IHS Holding Ltd. (IHS Towers); edotco Group Sdn Bhd; China Energy Equipment Co. Ltd.; RT Telecom Sdn Bhd.; Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc.; MGS Construction Inc.; Frontier Tower Associates Management Pte. Ltd.; the consortium of Global Networks Inc. (GNI) and JTower Inc.;
American Tower Corp. (ATC); J.S. Cruz Construction and Development Inc.; Desarrollos Terrestres (DT Towers); Taimon Industrial Service Corp., Crei Management Services Fze; Tiger Infrastructure Private Unlimited; UA Withya Public Co. Ltd.; and Wing-An Construction and Development Corp., China Construction First Group Corp. Ltd. and ACODA.

The rule also allows ITCs to establish cell sites without binding contract with an MNO in a DICT or government-owned properties with the condition that they will secure commercial agreements with any telco within six months from completion of the common tower. If it failed to meet the condition, it must disassemble the tower or sell it to another ITC, which holds a contract with an MNO.

Aside from the initial 2,500 sites, the DICT also urged MNOs to identify more areas where they want ITCs to establish towers. Moreover, DICT noted that if an MNO voluntarily shares its existing towers, particularly all passive telco infrastructures, the government will allow the company to build passive infrastructure in government properties.

To further ramp up this initiative, the DICT has vowed to extend support in terms of securing necessary government permits.

“The rules on common tower sharing are anchored on encouraging investment and build more towers in the unserved and underserved areas. This will also avoid inefficient duplication of network resources, redundancy of permits and high cost of operations,” the DICT said.

The DICT, however, warned that if ITCs fail to comply with the rules and meet their rollout plans, the agency would cancel the MOA.

The rules will be effective 15 days from its publications, it said.

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