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Cell site rules put Philippines behind in 5G

Globe Ernest Cu.jpg

Historic difficulties building cell sites in the Philippines affected the deployment of 5G across the country, according to Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu.

Cu spoke during the 5G Growth Goals roundtable discussion at the Bloomberg Qatar Economic Forum. Taking place last week, the forum covered leadership, sustainability, investment and technology.

The panel, hosted by Bloomberg reporter Shirley Zhao, also featured: Jawad Abbassi, head of MENA, GSMA; Katrina Luna-Abelarde, EVP and head of international and carrier business group, PLDT-Smart; Mysore Madhusudhan, EVP collaboration and connected solutions, Tata Communications; Fuad Siddiqui, executive partner and VP, Nokia Bell Labs; Manish Vyas, president, communications, media and entertainment business and CEO, network services, Tech Mahindra; and Jefferson Wang, global 5G lead, Accenture.

Right of Way rules were adapted and re-written in many countries around the world to speed up 5G deployments. In the Philippines, however, the order was not issued until 23 March this year. It is due to expire in March 2024.

Addressing delegates, Cu (pictured) said: “I think we're so far behind that it's going to take some time. Given the fact that the country has a limited number of cell sites owing to its past history where it was very difficult to build cell sites.”

However, Cu praised regulatory changes made in response to the pandemic. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in March issued Department Order No. 29 lifting the ban on the construction of critical infrastructure, particularly cell sites, along national roads.  Globe said it was "another important win for the industry", following which it pledged to build "at least" 2,000 new cell sites in 2021.

CTIO Gil Genio was quoted as saying in April: “With a promising start with these tower companies in 2021, we can expect to see more cell towers in different areas in the country. These new builds will help increase capacity of our network in most areas and at the same time provide better access and mobile experience to customers.”

Globe has earmarked what it termed "a record" P70 billion in capex for this year, 80% of which will go to data network builds to deliver "world-class internet connectivity for Filipinos".

Globe has been migrating customers to 4G LTE and 5G technology, with SIM and device offers nationwide. Thet telco said its "aggressive network builds and network modernisation" to 4G LTE and 5G have resulted in "improved services to its customers nationwide".

It was the first mobile operator in Southeast Asia to commercially launch 5G AirFiber for Home use in 2019. Based on its latest report, at least 88% of the National Capital Region (NCR) now has 5G outdoor coverage and is also available in at least 82% or more in 13 cities in Metro Manila.  5G is also now accessible in 81% of Cebu City; 73% of Cagayan de Oro City; 73% of Davao City; 68% of Boracay Island; 68% of Bacolod City and 53% of Iloilo City. Six sites are also being installed in General Santos City and another one in Zamboanga City.

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