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Make it easier to set up cell sites

IN the continuing search for ways to improve telecommunications services in the country, the Department of Information and Communications Technology has proposed a policy of common towers to address the backlog in telecom infrastructure in the country.

The country today has only about 16,300 such towers, compared to Vietnam’s 70,000. It is said the Philippines needs 50,000 towers to enable the telecom firms to provide the kind of service the country needs.

The county’s present two telecom firms have long been complaining that their efforts to set up more cell sites all over the country have been hampered by difficulties in getting permits from local governments – excessive red tape.

The proposal for common towers may help in meeting this problem posed by LGUs, but it could lead to government intrusion into the telecom firms’ private business operations.

They have their own plans for expansion, such as fiber optics rather than copper-wire transmission and new services such as the streaming of Netflix videos which can only be done through fiber optics. Having to share a common tower with a rival operation might present difficulties for telecom firms.

The country will soon have a third telecom operator, with firms in China, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan expressing interest in President Duterte’s invitation to come to the Philippines. When the three firms are in full operation, we will see competition that is bound to improve the present level of telecom service in the country.

The private companies need greater government assistance to expand their services. In particular, they need to have to have less difficulty in getting permits from local governments for their cell sites. They might not welcome having to depend on a tower owned by the government or some other company, as it might infringe on their own business decisions.

If the government goes ahead with its plans to build common towers, especially in dangerous or difficult areas, it should not bar any of the three private telecom companies from having their own towers and cell sites in the interest of competition for better service. Further study on this proposed tower policy is in order.