Third Philippines operator ‘building own subsea network

Third Philippines operator ‘building own subsea network’, CTO says

21 February 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Dito Telecommunity, the planned third mobile operator in the Philippines, plans to build its own domestic subsea network connecting the country’s islands, as well as a 10,000-15,000km fibre network.

China Telecom, a partner in the project, will provide international connectivity, Dito’s CTO Rodolfo Santiago told media in Manila.

Dito will compete with the two existing mobile operators, Globe Telecom and PLDT, when the $5.4 billion project takes on its first commercial customers in March 2021. The Bank of China has provided $500 million in funding to start the project, company officials said.

But Dito plans a technical launch in July this year, a move designed to ensure it complies with a licence condition that it has 37% coverage of the population in its first year, with an average speed of 27Mbps.

Adel Tamano, Dito chief administrative officer, told media yesterday: “Perhaps, people will call this a delay but I think at the end of the day, the consumer will be happier.” Earlier in February a senior government official resigned after a dispute with the minister. 

Ultimately Dito will cover 84% of the population with speeds of 55Mbps upwards.

The selection of a third operator started in 2017 when Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, met China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, in Manila. Duterte said that the country should have a third mobile operator and that it should be led by a Chinese company. China Telecom won that race, and now owns 40%, with the rest going to Udenna and Chelsea Logistics, two companies controlled by businessman Dennis Uy.

The licence requires Dito to start commercial operations this year, with the deadlines for the first phone call set in May 2020 and pre-commercial trials in September.

According to Santiago’s media conversations yesterday, Dito plans to have 1,600 base stations built by July.