By Edd K. Usman
The government will put up a nationwide broadband infrastructure in the Philippines starting next year, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said.
“This is the first time that the government will do this kind of thing. We’ll have a broadband owned and put up by the government,” Cordoba told the Philippines News Agency.
Cordoba said plans for the project will be hopefully signed by the first or second quarter of 2017. After which, implementation will immediately follow, he said.
The NTC chief pointed out that other countries are putting in funds for broadband infrastructure, and the Duterte administration recognizes this need in order to address issues on connectivity.
Also, he said that with the growing data traffic, and the growing number of internet users, there is really a need to invest on such infrastructure.
“If, for instance, the government would put up cell sites, there’s an option to have these leased by telco operators,” Cordoba said.
He continued that the advantage of it is that there would be less operating expense on the telco operators’ side, since they will not be putting up their own sites in some areas.
At an event, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) secretary Rodolfo A. Salalima said putting up the national broadband network would cost from P77 billion to P199 billion.
Salalima told journalists on Tuesday, Nov. 8, that the figure is an estimate provided to him.
Salalima was at the 1st DICT Summit in Makati City where the government and the private sector and other stakeholders discussed possible ICT-based solutions aimed at mitigating the paralyzing traffic bottlenecks in the country.
He also revealed to journalists that two big Chinese technology companies are interested in becoming partners with the government for the national broadband network.
Salalima conceded one of the firms is ZTE Corporation, which had a failed deal with the then Arroyo administration to build a national broadband network because of corruption-related issues.
The DICT chief emphasized the amount he cited does not cover any investment or infrastructure from the government. This means the government will not spend a centavo as the project with be done on private-public partnership.
Salalima said the plan for the broadband is being fleshed out as they await the decision of Duterte on what type of broadband set-up to implement.
He cited three types: a pure physical broadband infrastructure, a working broadband to be used by the government and people in the countryside where telecommunications companies are not serving, and the government as a full-blown broadband operator.
“But my suggestion is to try number two, and from there, decide if you want to be a full-blown operator,” said the DICT chief, who worked previously with Globe Telecoms.
He cautioned though that being a full-blown operator requires a thorough study.
“I said be careful because if you do that, you must first have a feasibility study. The intent of the law is to privatize the provisioning of basic services like telecommunications,” he pointed out.
While there is no definite type of broadband yet from the three types he mentioned, the DICT chief said they were anticipating it could be the second one.
“Nothing yet. We presented it to Malacanang on October 3 and we are awaiting the decision of the President on the type of broadband we are going to establish in the country,” said Salalima, adding it will be implemented across the whole country.
“Where government is, we will go there because we want precisely to have an integrated network,” said the pioneering DICT secretary.
Meanwhile, he said the implementation of the government’s nationwide free Wi-Fi access in public places is continuing.
“This broadband plan will work side by side with the Wi-Fi because it can be considered Wi-Fi is a component of the broadband,” said Salalima.
By the end of 2016, he said they intend to establish over 1,300 Wi-Fi sites and another 1,800 sites in 2017. He said that by 2026, “We intend to put up about 100,000 Wi-Fi sites to provide connectivity and coverage to those areas which do not have connectivity.”
It can be recalled the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) under former Secretary Mario Go Montejo started the implementation of the nationwide free Wi-Fi in July 2015 with P1.4 billion budget through the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICT Office).
The ICT Office became the core of the DICT, which was created through Republic Act No. 10844 in May 2016. ? with reports from PNA