By Jovee Marie de la Cruz, April 9 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Monday said $4.5 billion in investment is needed to construct 50,000 new towers that would improve telco services in the Philippines.

At a hearing of the House Committee on Information and Communications Technology, Acting DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said the Philippines needs an additional 50,000 towers to improve services and to catch up with its Asean neighbors as he admitted that the country has only 18,000 cell towers.

He said building 50,000 telco towers will need an investment of $4.5 billion. A construction of a tower will cost P3 million to P5 million.

“More or less we need 50,000 towers to catch up [with Asean neighbors] and [support the] 18,000 towers we currently have,” Rio said.

According to Rio, the Philippines has the lowest density in the Asean region with 0.14 per 1,000 subscribers—far from 0.5 mark per 1,000 subscribers, and the 50,000 towers will help achieve this mark.

Rio said the agency wants to be on a par with Vietnam with its 70,000 cell sites.

Moreover, Rio said private firms will be allowed to build new towers so that no fresh funds will be needed from the government.

Rio said the country’s three telco players—Globe, Smart and Mislatel Consortium—have already identified 1,000 areas for the common tower projects.  He said 19 companies have already signed memoranda of understanding with DICT for such tower projects.

For his part, Atty. Vicente Castelo of Globe Telecommunication reiterated the telcos’ concern over the long process entailed to put up a tower.

He said telcos have to get approval for at least 25 permits, including from local government units, to get a cell site tower constructed.

Earlier, Nacionalista Party Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said the Palace’s directive to DICT to cut the processing time for the construction of cell sites and other telecoms-related infrastructure to a week from the current average of eight months will send another strong signal to investors that the government is serious about cutting red tape.

According to Villafuerte, after slashing the processing time, the next step would be to cut the number of permits, noting the approvals needed for at least 25 permits to get a base transceiver station constructed.

He said the government should also heed calls by telcos to standardize fees in securing permits—ranging from P5,000 to P200,000 depending on the LGU—so as to prevent corruption and address concerns involved in setting up telecommunication facilities inside private subdivisions and exclusive villages.