THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) on Tuesday signed a letter of intent with China Telecommunications Corp. that will allow it to use the government's cable landing facilities to roll out its submarine cable, which is expected to help improve Internet speeds in the country.
DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio Jr. said in a phone call after the signing ceremony that the project is expected to benefit the government's national broadband plan and free Wi-fi project.
"The letter of intent is on how China Telecom can come up with its submarine cable. There'll be cable landing facilities in the Philippines. Initially we're thinking of using the cable landing station that we have an agreement with Facebook, so they can start (testing) the feasibility of using that, or whether they will make their own cable landing station. This will help our national broadband plan and of course our free Wi-fi," he said.
Mr. Rio noted the signing of the letter of intent is just one of the phases it will have to go through before they sign a memorandum of agreement.
China Telecom is part of the Mislatel Consortium which was named new major telco player on Monday, joined by Dennis A. Uy's Udenna Corp. and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and their franchise holder Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Inc. (Mislatel)
The group said in a statement China Telecom's international submarine cable facility will use optical fiber technology capable of handling signal, digital data, telephone and Internet traffic. This underwater cable will directly connect the Philippines to Hong Kong and United States.
"With this submarine broadband infrastructure, DICT in cooperation with China Telecommunications hopes to ease up traffic and speed up Internet connectivity, making it more accessible, reliable and affordable for more Filipinos," it said.
Aside from the letter of intent the DICT signed with China Telecom, the Philippine government is also signing a memorandum of agreement with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MICT) — DICT's counterpart agency in China. Mr. Rio said the deal will be for the cooperation and exchange in the fields of ICT and telecommunications in general.
Meanwhile, DICT Undersecretary Monchito B. Ibrahim said on Tuesday that bidding for another major telco to compete with PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. is still a "possibility."
"We're not limiting it to the third telco. The only thing that's limiting us is actually the amount of frequencies that we have available... We have learned our lessons from how we did it before, where we ended up with just two players. We don't want a repeat of that," he said during a luncheon meeting with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
The DICT, through its attached agency National Telecommunications Agency (NTC) has allotted radio frequency bands of 700 megahertz (MHz), 2100 MHz, 2000 MHz, 2.5 gigahertz (GHz), 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz for the new major telco player.
Mr. Ibrahim said the DICT expects to take back more frequencies soon as it currently mulls the acquisition of unused and underused frequencies owned by small telco players.
"If we have enough frequencies, we'll allow a fourth telco, a fifith telco. We will do that. We intend to also come up with a policy that will tell the existing frequency holders who are hoarding these frequencies... that if they're not able to use it in the next five years, government will take it back." he said.
Mr. Rio told had told reporters before that they are studying increasing the spectrum user fee to push telco operators that do not maximize their frequency bands to turn it over to the government.