NTC Approves Globe's and Smart's Co-Use of BellTel's Frequency
Let’s take a look at the NTC’s approval of Globe and Smart’s co-use of the 700MHz frequencies of BellTel. As you may already know, Smart and Globe’s access to these frequencies resulted from their purchase of the telecoms business of SMC.
In approving the use, the NTC set the following conditions:
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.
Here are my comments:
The NTC requires Smart and Globe to increase capacity within a year. What are the starting numbers? How much capacity increase would be acceptable to the NTC such that the approval of the co-use would be justified? Will the NTC exclusively rely on the reports of Smart and Globe on the increase in capacity or will it make an independent determination? What happens if Smart and Globe fail to increase capacity?
There is nothing specific on the parameters for improving internet speed. News reports quote Deputy Commissioner Cabarios as saying that NTC expects to see an improvement from average speed of 1mbps to 5mbps. We must note that this is stated nowhere in the letter. Will his interviews be enough to hold Smart and Globe to the standard of 5mbps average speed? I think not. Additionally, how will the NTC know that the average internet speed it set has been achieved by Smart and Globe? The appropriate measuring methodology and tool for mobile broadband is still a hotly-contested issue.
Will the NTC have a say on the contents of the roll-out plan to be submitted by Smart and Globe? Is NTC setting minimum parameters of what such a roll-out plan should contain? Shouldn’t there be a requirement for Smart and Globe’s roll-out plan to conform to (or at least reflect) the government’s digital strategy (Is there a new one? ICTO website only has the one covering 2011-2016)?
The letter ends with NTC’s statement that it “reserves the power to terminate the joint use in case of violation of any of the above conditions or when it deems necessary to serve public interest.“ While it may insist on the power to recall the approval given, I find it difficult to see how this recall can be implemented in view of the vague and loophole-ridden conditions that NTC has set. It’s like the NTC castrated itself from the get-go.