What’s the frequency, NTC?
Last year, I wrote about the National Telecommunication Commission’s approval of Globe and Smart’s co-use agreement covering BellTel’s 700mhz frequencies. In its letter approving the deal, the NTC laid down the following requirements:
Immediately commence and implement this co-use agreement;
Increase capacity, i.e. broadband and internet access speed, within one (1) year and submit a progress report on the matter on a quarterly basis;
Submit within sixty (60) days a roll-out plan to cover at least ninety (90%) of the cities and municipalities in three (3) years to address the growing demand for broadband infrastructure and internet access;
Pay the Spectrum User’s Fee and other required fees and charges;
Secure from the Commission separate permits and licenses for radio stations owned and operated by each company; and
Allow the Commission access to the base stations or cell sites for monitoring purposes.
I noted then that it would be quite difficult for the NTC to evaluate whether the telcos held up their end of the bargain since the NTC did not set measurable standards for the increase in capacity. As written, it would seem that even a miniscule or incremental improvement would mean that the telcos are compliant with the NTC’s requirements.
A Google search of Globe’s or Smart’s roll-out plan for the 700 mhz frequencies yields nothing but press releases on how each telco is successfully doing the roll-out (here’s Globe’s and Smart’s press releases). The NTC website also does not appear to have the roll-out plans available.
Items 4 and 5 are pretty straightforward so it is reasonable to conclude that these have been done by the telcos. As for number 6, we also have no idea whether the NTC has had access to the base stations and cell sites for monitoring. This deliverable is as much the NTC’s as the telcos’ however.
So just how well are Globe and Smart faring in terms of network performance after the co-use agreement? Spectacularly, if NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba is to be believed. Cordoba made this pronouncement during his presentation at that first Philippine Telecommunications Summit organized by the Department of Information and Communications Technology in March 2017. Notwithstanding this premature assessment by the head of agency, I think the NTC should come up with a published assessment of the status of telco compliance to the terms of the co-use agreement. After all, these frequencies are part of the national patrimony, with the NTC mere stewards thereof. The NTC would be remiss in the performance of its duties if it fails to make a full and faithful report to the Filipino people on the utilization of public resources.