By Denise A. Valdez, September 1 2019; Business World

Image Credit to Reuters

THE rules governing the shared use of telecommunications towers will be issued within the year with a draft expected “in a few weeks,” the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

Secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said the preliminary version of the common tower policy can be expected in September or October.

“We’re coming up with another meeting, after which we’ll have the first draft of the common tower policy,” he told BusinessWorld last week. “Within the year, sigurado yan [that’s for sure],” he added, referring to the timeline to complete the final rules.

The DICT started work on a new common tower policy last year after opposition to an earlier draft presented by Presidential Adviser Ramon P. Jacinto. This version limited the number of companies that may build towers, and barred network operators from building their own, which stakeholders contested.

In a stakeholders’ meeting last month, the department presented initial ideas that it wants to include in the policy, such as a requirement that towers be built within a certain from one another.

Other proposals are to require telcos to submit an annual tower rollout plan to tower companies, and subsidies for towers that will be built in missionary areas. Government support is also guaranteed only for towers that will be built by independent tower companies to facilitate infrastructure sharing.

While work on the policy is ongoing, the DICT is pushing for an accelerated tower rollout on the 2,500 sites it identified earlier this year.

“We will have the groundbreaking I hope before the end of September, for the first common tower in the Philippines,” DICT Undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. said separately.

The chosen site has yet to be determined, but he said this is part of the department’s Accelerated Roll-out of Common Towers plan which the DICT presented in May.

Ang target namin for this year is about 400 [We target to have about 400 towers within the year],” Mr. Rio added.

Under the accelerated rollout plan, the DICT listed 2,500 sites on DICT-owned and other government-owned properties. The lease on sites owned by the DICT is free.

Aside from building new common towers, Mr. Rio said the DICT also owns around 180 towers, which it is offering to tower companies to convert into shareable infrastructure. — Denise A. Valdez