Dito Telecommunity on track to launch in March 2021, says DICT

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Third telco Dito Telecommunity is on schedule to meet its target for its commercial launch in March 2021, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

In a progress report to the DICT, the Dennis Uy-owned firm said it has successfully conducted a series of local and international test phone calls made, with the last of the first test calls made on March 27 — almost two months earlier than the May 2020 target as stated in the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) granted to them by the government.

Dito Telecommunity reported that the local calls made were with the five regional subdivisions representing the five Dito vendors in the country, namely Huawei for North Luzon, Northern and Southern for the National Capital Region (NCR); ZTE for South Luzon and the Visayas; and Huaxin for Mindanao.

Two successful international phone calls had also been made: one to Hong Kong and another to Beijing China with China Telecom.

“Dito has informed us that they have, in fact, begun limited user testing and have discussed their plans of expanding this within the next few months under the friendly user test,” DICT secretary Gregorio B. Honasan II said.

“They have activated a significant number of sites wherein phone calls and connection to the Internet are possible, and have put-up in various stages of completion, a total of 1,300 towers on top of the common tower agreements with independent tower contractors they have secured.”.

Dito Telecommunity admitted, however, that the pandemic caused a number of key infrastructure delays just as they were approaching the peak of their rollout.

Rodolfo Santiago, chief technology officer of Dito, previously mentioned that Dito was prepared for any eventuality by putting in place locally sourced materials needed for the roll-out. But as it turned out, even local industries had experienced difficulty in meeting their commitments due to Covid-19 pandemic and the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), it reported.

Most of the scheduled material supplies from China such as fiber cables, DC containers, base stations, towers, and telecom ancillaries failed to arrive as scheduled causing delays in the roll-out, the company said.

Despite the limitations, Dito said more than 250 tower sites are now operational — integrated and on-air — while interim network operation centers are in place to allow limited Internet connection and phone calls. The hardest hit during the ECQ was the laying of domestic and submarine cables, the telco said.

In relation to the delay caused by the Covid-19 crisis, the National Telecommunications Commission issued a resolution extending the July 2020 technical audit under the CPCN provisions.

Under the current extension, Dito is given within six months to deliver the commitments for the technical audit requirements — that is to provide a speed of 27 megabits per second to cover 37% percent of the population.

Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano stressed that only the technical audit schedule was moved. Its other commitments, such as the commercial launch this March 2021, will proceed as scheduled, he said.

With Dito’s plans of building its network underway, the DICT said telco giants PLDT and Globe Teleom are each strategizing ways to revamp and upscale their services to meet the growing demand for connectivity in the country.

PLDT returned to the international bond market after 18 years and raised $600 million from the two-part issuance of the lowest coupon for a 10-year and 30-year offering. The orders reached $10.2 billion or 17 times the amount sold — the largest orderbook size and oversubscription achieved by an issuer driven by institutional investors.

The proceeds from the bond market will primarily serve to refinance PLDT’s existing debt obligations at lower interest rates until 2021, allowing the telco to boost spending for operational and revenue growth.

Globe, for its part, is looking into building cell sites in public schools to ease the transition to blended learning and digital education as face-to-face classes are prohibited pursuant to social distancing measures of the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF).

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