Chinese state-owned firm China Energy Engineering Corp. (CEEC) is eyeing to invest around $4.4 billion in building common cell towers that may be leased to local telcos.
This, as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CEEC on the deployment of the cell sites on Friday, Jan. 18.
The company said it has the capability to meet the DICT’s target of building 50,000 cell sites to make the Philippines competitive with its neighboring countries in providing quality telco services to the public.
“The number of towers that will be built by the CEEC will depend on the demand of telco operators. And of course, we will do it based on the requirement of the DICT and NTC (National Telecommunications Commission). According to DICT, there should be totally around 50,000 towers to be built. For our capability, we have no problem in building this total of 50,000 towers,” Huang Fei, vice president of CEEC, said in a press briefing.
DICT acting secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said the government will provide assistance to common tower providers in facilitating permits, right of way, and support for infrastructure, should they secure a contract with any of the telco operators.
He stressed that the DICT will implement measures to reduce red tape in the process of granting permits to telcos for the building of their cell sites.
The department is eyeing to create an inter-agency task force that will consist of various agencies, such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and local government units to expedite the process of issuance of permits.
“This is the function of an inter-agency that we will be creating. There is the DILG, LGUs, DENR and Public (Works and) Highways. All of these agencies that are in some way involved in giving permits will have a one-stop shop. For the ease of doing business, if before it takes eight months for the granting of permits, we can now compress it to seven days,” Rio said.
To date, the DICT has signed MOUs with five tower providers: local firm ISOC Infrastructures, Singapore’s ISON ECP Tower, IHS Towers of Nigeria, Edotco Group of Malaysia; and China Energy Engineering Corp.
The DICT has expressed its intention to sign more deals with tower providers to build and deploy cell sites and other facilities that will be leased to telco firms, which may then use them to improve their delivery of service.
The Philippines currently has 16,000 cell sites against 67 million Internet users, giving it the lowest cell site density in Asia.
The lack of cell towers has been identified as one of the barriers to affordable and consistently reliable Internet services in the country. — Aerol John Pateña (PNA)