Common tower firm starts work on its first cell site in PH

The joint venture firm of ISOC-edotco has officially begun the construction of its first common tower in the Philippines with a groundbreaking ceremony in Bacoor City, Cavite on Thursday, Dec. 19.

Photo shows officials from the ISOC-edotco and DICT during the groundbreaking ceremony in Bacoor, Cavite

ISOC Philippines, a local company, was the first to get accreditation from the Department of ICT to operate as a common tower provider when the government decided to push through with its common tower initiative. It eventually decided to form a joint venture with Malaysia-based edotco when the company also secured its accreditation from the DICT.

At the groundbreaking ceremony in Barangay Mambog in Bacoor, edotco CEO Suresh Sidhu said they have already obtained the required permits to put up 70 towers in Cavite alone.

The joint venture firm said they aim to build 400 to 500 towers within the first year of operations, contributing towards the 1,000 towers planned within the first phase of operations, which will span from two to three years. Both companies will invest up to $100 million in the local market over the next three to five years.

The groundbreaking for the common tower is not the first in the country, however. That distinction belongs to the LCS Group, a company owned by political kingpin Luis “Chavit” Singson, which started construction of the country’s first shared cell site in Caoayan, Ilocos Sur in October this year.

The construction of shared infrastructure aims to reduce the country’s subscriber-to-tower ratio which currently stands at over 7,000 subscribers per tower. This is three times the ideal ratio prescribed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) causing Filipino mobile users to frequently encounter coverage issues due to network congestion.

“This groundbreaking marks a step forward for the nation, towards embracing the shared infrastructure model and advancing overall connectivity. Our efforts in the Philippines are fueled by the clear opportunity to transform the telecommunications landscape and our commitment to improve the country’s digital aspirations as a nation-building partner. As an independent infrastructure services company, we bring in the right capabilities and expertise to roll-out both built-to-suit and next-generation connectivity solutions to meet the demands for affordable and reliable coverage,” Sidhu said.

“The push for common towers in the Philippines is also driven by telco users’ increasing appetite for faster connectivity speeds and lower latency amid an increasing appetite for data. In meeting this demand, operators are set to invest in 4G and 5G deployment while modernizing existing 3G networks to improve customer experience. To do this successfully, the sector requires more towers, antennas, and base stations across the nation,” he added.

DICT undersecretary Eliseo M. Rio said the government is doing its part to push the initiative by talking to churches, schools, and LGU buildings to allow the installation of common towers in their structures.

Rio – the main force and proponent of the common tower initiative — admitted that the rollout is a bit slow so far but he expects it to accelerate soon once the ball starts rolling for the common tower firms.

While noting that the DICT has yet to release an official common tower policy, Rio said the common tower providers may be given their respective areas where they can operate exclusively in a scheme similar to service areas imposed on telephone landline operators years ago.

“But the areas will be identified by the local telcos because it will make no sense to put up a tower if the telco wouldn’t want to go into that area,” said Rio.

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