Saturday, March 2, 2024

US data center firm, common tower operator vow to expand PH operations

During a trade mission to Washington DC, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary Ramon Lopez secured the commitment of US companies to build hyperscale data centers and common towers in the Philippines.  

Trade representatives from the US and the Philippines meet in Washington DC
Photo from DTI

The trade chief first met with executives from Black and Veatch (B&V) last April 18 where he cited the Philippine government’s major economic reforms and investment promotion activities on high-tech-oriented projects.

“Among our priority sectors include those that promote Regional Equity, Digital Infrastructure and Skills Development, and Climate Adaptation, which can potentially be categorized under Tier III of the Strategic Investment Priority Plan (SIPP). Building more data centers supports our strategy to build the country’s digital infrastructure needed for the hyperscalers in this age of growing e-commerce and Internet and social media use,” Lopez said.

During the meeting, the trade chief likewise mentioned the Philippine Skills Framework (PSF) initiative, which will ensure capacity building and availability of skills in digital technology, and the Center for AI Research, which will encourage more innovation in these new industries.

“These, we see, will further grow the Philippine economy by nurturing higher-value economic activities, bringing in more investments, jobs, and income — which would further fuel consumption spending, as well as attract more investments and expansion activities,” Lopez added.

For his part, B&V executive director Martin Travers took note of the Philippine policies on electric vehicles (EVs), renewable energy, and data centers which align with the priorities and strategic direction of the US firm.

B&V is among the top 10 employee-owned companies in the US, with experience in deploying a network of EV charging stations. It is also among the top data center developers in the world and a leader in climate-friendly data centers.

During the US trip, Lopez also met with executives of common tower operator SBA Communications to discuss their continued construction and operations in the Philippines.

The trade chief met with SBA senior director for international Nicholas Van Slyck and senior director for government and regulatory affairs Maria Alexandra Velez on April 20, 2022 to discuss the US company’s ongoing expansion in the country, which includes the incorporation of their local entity in the Philippines as they started hiring local staff in local offices. 

“As the Philippines is in the middle of updating its digital infrastructure, we welcome SBA’s continued expansion in the country, which will create more jobs while enhancing competition that will lead to better and more affordable telecommunication services for the people,” Lopez said.

During the meeting, Van Slyck mentioned the company’s goal of building 180 telecommunication towers in 2022 and its talks with mobile network operators Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, and Dito Telecommunity, which have been receptive to SBA’s shared tower model.

At present, the company has installed 20 towers and is expecting to build 42 more by the end of the quarter.

“There is a strong connectivity demand in the country as Filipinos spend more time online than any other country in Asean and most other countries in the world. The government and the telco players are working hand-in-hand to accelerate the adoption of new technologies and next-generation platforms that are expected to boost production, improve productivity and enhance the country’s competitiveness,” Lopez explained.

SBA set up its Passive Telecommunications Towers Infrastructure project in the country in 2021. The company’s application for registration with BOI was approved on March 31, 2021 under Pioneer status with a total project cost of P10.76 billion and 353 estimated employment.

For its project, SBA intended to install a total of 1,470 tower structures in the country within five years.

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