The Road to Third Major Telco (PART 4: what we bring to the table, and why they want to invest in Philippine ICT)

First of all, the Philippine subscriber base, economy, and growth potential is in and of itself a bag of “sweeteners” for foreign entities interested in participating in the selection process.

While in our previous three columns we discussed threats, weaknesses, and opportunities regarding the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the third telco initiative that has yet to be released, we have not yet discussed the strengths that we have available. We do have various resources that we can bring to bear to get the TOR out and ready to go. We can get a third telco to enter, if we so want to.


First of all, the Philippine subscriber base, economy, and growth potential is in and of itself a bag of “sweeteners” for foreign entities interested in participating in the selection process. The country has thesevii:

  • Over a hundred million in population, with over two million abroad as OFWs

  • Over sixty million cellphone users, and only about thirty million using smartphones

  • Over ten million households, with only about three million having home broadband via copper, coaxial cable, fiber, or fixed wireless

  • Only two out of every hundred Pinoys have a landline

  • Only about three out of every hundred Pinoys have cable TV service

  • Digital TV is being rolled out, freeing up valuable TV whitespace (TVWS) spectrum that can be used for public free wifi, community mesh networks, and other intervention implementations

No wonder the foreign players want to come in and partner with the locals for an aggressive rollout. There’s growth to be had, across all sectors of the Philippine ICT space.

Second of all, our location in the western Pacific makes us the ideal location to be be Asia’s “internet router” and “internet switch.” Take a look at how cables go all around us (photo credit to Submarine Cable Map and TeleGeography) instead of through us:


The Philippines is well-positioned to become the internet hub for Asia-Pacific. The Luzon Bypass Infrastructure project of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) opens the door to this, and we can encourage more players to land their submarine cables in our country.

Other sweeteners mentioned by the DICT and National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) specifically, such as the use of Transco dark fiber, spectrum assignments, and efforts of government to reduce red tape, while important, pale in comparison to the advantages that the Philippines has, and is promoting by way of the highest committed level of service (HCLOS) model. The Philippines stands to limit the advantages of its sweeteners should the government adopt the highest committed investment (HCI) model that the Department of Finance (DOF) is pushing.

Hence, the serious efforts for ICT policy reform and support for the DICT’s efforts are needed now. This is where the admittedly few but actively participating ICT advocates have stepped up. For years now, Democracy.Net.PH, alongside the Better Broadband Alliance and the Internet Society – Philippine Chapter (ISOC-PH), has been pushing government to make efforts for access, affordability, and quality of service for ICT services, especially in the rural areas. While progress for ICT reforms was slow in the previous administration, much has already moved in this one, and we hold on to the hope that reforms might finally be achieved. It helps very much that the DICT has listened and engaged with ICT advocates. The fact that the Philippines has a DICT is in itself a plus, but is a DICT that listens to ICT advocates that is promoting the growth of ICT in the Philippines.

There are people who will claim that it is the political will of this President that is making things happen that did not in past administrations, and ICT advocates give due credit. However, if it is truly in the President’s best interests to make the third telco initiative successful to improve the lives of ordinary Filipinos, then the President ought to listen to the DICT, ICT advocates, and ordinary citizens. If the President does otherwise, rural ICT development will fall by the wayside, his chances of failing the Filipino people will increase, and the hoped-for change will likely not come. The President must approve and instruct the DICT to implement the HCLOS model for the third telco selection process to succeed and result in positive changes in the lives of the Filipino people.

vii "The Problem of #PHInternet: How Can President Duterte Make Philippine Telecommunications Faster, Reliable,Cheaper, and More Accessible Across the Country." Democracy.Net.PH.