DICT issues formal guidelines on common tower policy

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After three months of delay, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has officially released the formal guidelines for the government’s common tower policy.

The legal framework is contained in Department Circular (DC) No. 008 dated May 29, 2020 and signed by DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II. The agency originally intended to release the rules last March.

The DICT said the guidelines were released in compliance with the directive of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, through the Executive Secretary, last May 28 to process the immediate issuance of the common tower policy in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The policy aims to fast-track the deployment of common towers across all regions of the country, especially in the unserved and underserved areas.

The official document does not contain a provision limiting the number of common tower providers. Newly appointed DICT undersecretary Ramon “RJ” Jacinto earlier recommended that only two common tower providers should be allowed by the government in the first four years of its implementation – a position vehemently opposed by former DICT undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.

The guidelines labels common towers as “Shared Passive Telecommunications Tower Infrastructure” or Shared PTTIs, while common tower providers were termed as Independent Tower Companies or ITCs.

The official guidelines details the registration process for the common tower providers with the DICT. The permit to be given will be valid for five years and renewable for the same period.

The 24 common providers that were previously accredited by the DICT before the issuance of the guidelines would now have to file for a certificate of registration.

Under the new guidelines, common towers should provide “ample access slots for all telcos and the DICT to co-locate their respective antennas, receivers, transmitters, radio frequency modules, and other radio communications equipment”.

“For the Department, the utilization of shared PTTIs will help accelerate the implementation of the Free Public Internet Access Program pursuant to R.A. No. 10929,” the DICT said.

The propagation of common towers is expected to provide a substantial area of investment and economic activity for jobs generation and employment opportunities in various regions of the country, according to the DICT.

“The finalization of this policy is a significant step in addressing the nation’s connectivity needs that is rendered more immediate by the pandemic,” Honasan said. “With this development, we aim to help improve, not only the Internet condition, but also the state of the country’s socio-economic welfare through ICT in support of the President’s Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-Asa Program.”

Grace Poe, in a statement, cited the DICT for its latest circular, saying the policy could become a “game-changer” for the industry. “Tower sharing is a way to address the demand for better, wider and faster Internet service, which is a necessity as we shift to online learning amidst the pandemic. We owe it to our students to have fair and equal access to this digital experience.”

Poe said infrastructure sharing will also reduce investment costs and operating expenses, which will result in lower rates for our consumers. “We count on all concerned national and local government units to do their share in adhering to mandatory timelines and automatic approval procedures under the circular, backed by Ease of Doing Business and other laws.”

“With the Internet seeming like our umbilical cord to the outside world in this time of pandemic, a reliable and dependable connection is essential,” she added.

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