Philippines' mobile duopoly ends with Dito's commercial services launch


The Philippines' third telco has launched commercial services today local time, starting a new era for the country's telecoms sector.

Dito Telecommunity is now providing mobile connectivity in 15 areas across Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

Dito will expand into other areas in the next few months, with a target of nationwide mobile coverage by mid-2021 and a subsequent broadband services launch in 2022, according to chief administrative officer Adel Tamano.

Dito, formerly known as Mindanao Islamic Telephone (Mislatel), received its operating permit in July 2019 following a $5.4 billion agreement between Udenna and China Telecom. As Capacity reported in February 2020, Dito is also planning an extensive subsea network and a 10,000-15,000km fibre network.

As a partner, China Telecom will provide international connectivity, Dito’s CTO Rodolfo Santiago told local media last year.

Quality communications are a pressing issue in the Philippines, which has become a hub for outsourced work from western nations, particularly Australia. This drives demand for stable and high-speed connections, but local providers have been on the backfoot at times for both mobile and fixed.

Internet speeds in the Philippines have increased 477% since Q3 2016, but they still lag the speeds recorded in other countries, according to research. Insight from Ookla ranked the country 111th for its mobile speeds and 107th for fixed broadband, in October 2020.

Several times in 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called out the quality of communications services, and at one point issued a deadline for improvement. He even called services "lousy", an insult he has used to describe everything from corruption probes against him, to the United States.

Although highly anticipated, Dito's launch has not been without controversy. The official who led the move to select a third mobile operator for the Philippines resigned from government last year.

Eliseo Rio, the under-secretary at the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) suggested that disagreements with the minister were behind his February 2020 resignation.