Bidding to become 4th telco, Now Telecom inks deal with shared fiber provider

Now Telecom appears to be laying the groundwork to become the country’s third telco player following the signing of a memorandum of understanding with a shared fiber network provider – a move that will allow the broadband firm to go into the 5G space and expand nationwide.

Now Telecom president Rodolfo Pantoja

Singapore-based HyalRoute Group, through its local subsidiary Philippine Fiber Optic Cable Network, Ltd. (PFOCN), is investing between $1 to $2 billion to roll out a fiber optic cable network in the Philippines, which will then be leased to telcos, Internet service providers (ISPs), and cable TV operators, among others.

An earlier regulatory filing by Now Telecom’s affiliate and listed firm Now Corporation revealed that PFOCN and Now Telecom will collaborate on the commercial aspects of shared fiber infrastructure assets nationwide, including access to fiber optic cores and other related facilities.

Now Telecom also said both parties intend to collaborate on the fiber optic cable network rollout that will strengthen and support Now’s nationwide expansion.

Analysts say that with this impending partnership with Now Telecom, which has a 25-year congressional franchise to provide telecommunications services throughout the Philippines and is a cellular mobile telephone system (CMTS) licensee, is in a position to be the country’s fourth telco, beginning with the partnership with PFOCN.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary Gregorio Honasan has said that he was open to a fourth or even a fifth telco. China Telecom-backed Ditto Telecommunity (formerly Mislatel consortium) earlier bagged the right to become the country’s third telco, after PLDT-Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.

Earlier, the DICT, which has also signed a memorandum of agreement with PFOCN, said in a statement that the latter’s investment will address the need to extend the fiber optic network to rural areas, which local telcos are unable to do at the moment because these areas are considered non-viable.

Media reports quoted HyalRoute chairman Huang Xinglong has said that this investment project will greatly improve the status of communication infrastructure, particularly fiber network, while improving broadband penetration rate and speed to meet the needs of the general public.

The rollout of PFOCN in the country will be done in phases starting this year until 2028. The company will be giving preferential rates to the government for its free WiFi and National Broadband Program while the rest of its capacity will be leased to other players.

Last June, ALT Global Solutions, one of the 24 telecommunications tower-sharing companies that have signed an MOU with the DICT, reported that it has also signed an agreement with Now Telecom for the provision of shareable telecom infrastructure.

ALT Global director Sherwin Hing told media earlier that while they are talking to all three major mobile network operators, so far they’ve signed with Now Telecom. He said a partnership with ALT Global will allow telcos to utilize their shared tower infrastructure to enable rapid deployment of cellular equipment, and in some areas increase cellular density in preparation for 5G.

Now Telecom president Rodolfo Pantoja said that their impending partnership with HyalRoute and PFOCN will accelerate Now’s nationwide deployment through the availability of a nationwide transmission backbone.

Pantoja explained that when coupled with Now’s fixed wireless capability for the last mile and using spectrum exclusive to it, Now Telecom can reach consumers faster than a pure fiber-based broadband provider at a fraction of their capital expenditure, thus leading to more compelling broadband offers.

He emphasized that the collaboration with HyalRoute will open to Now Telecom underserved markets that are currently prohibitive due to the huge capex needed, adding that the presence of a provider-agnostic fiber operator solves one of the key infrastructure elements of Now’s 5G plan and allows Now to launch truly disruptive 5G offerings.

“The nationwide backbone (of HyalRoute-PFOCN) allows us to replicate our success in Metro Manila with guaranteed throughput broadband services that continue to resonate with enterprises especially those where availability of reliable broadband is mission-critical,” Pantoja added.

Now Telecom has announced earlier that it plans to offer 5G wireless technology which will allow the delivery of up to 20 gigabit per second speed to enterprises and homes.

Pantoja explained that 5G will allow high wireless bandwidth in low latency scenarios, allowing for further complex technologies to exist. “5G is necessary for the Internet of Things to thrive. With cloud computing, you can now decentralize the business of telecommunications,” he said.

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