July 14, 2022

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DITO seeking local gov’t help for ‘viability’ to cover challenging areas

DITO Telecommunity Corp. is reaching out to local government units (LGUs) for a possible partnership in order to make it viable to build telecommunications infrastructure in “challenging areas,” company executives said on Thursday.

“We are talking to LGUs in these challenging areas on how we can partner to make it viable. As early as now, we are talking on whatever scheme we can explore… to really partner to provide telco services in these challenging areas,” DITO Chief Technology Officer Rodolfo D. Santiago said during a press briefing.

He said it is “not commercially viable” to put up infrastructure in areas such as island municipalities with few users. DITO is planning to spend P50 billion on expansion projects in order to cover 75-76% of the population this year.

Mr. Santiago estimated that investment per tower in the more challenging areas could be higher. The telco targets to reach 80% coverage next year, or equivalent to up to 7,500 towers.

“Definitely (the investment) will be higher and require some additional technologies like satellite technologies to provide the backhaul,” he said. “We are in talks with (satellite companies), but I cannot disclose (the details) yet until we sign something with them.”

DITO Chief Administrative Officer Adel A. Tamano said the telco, which now has 5,500 towers nationwide with 10.3 million subscribers, has a commitment to build infrastructure in commercially unviable areas because of the “nation-building element” of its business model.

“Speaking straight, this 84-90% (coverage), which is our internal target, is not commercially viable. We are not going to be burning that much in those areas, but because of our government and internal commitments of wanting to serve the underserved, that’s part of what we have to do,” he said.

DITO, which already covers around 600 cities and municipalities, had initially expected to achieve its goal of reaching 12 million users by the end of the year, but Mr. Tamano said the target is now attainable by October.

Citing data from global monitoring firm Ookla, DITO said it has already “made a dent in the dominance of its main competitors.”

As of March 2022, its rivals PLDT, Inc.’s Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart and TnT) had 70.3 million subscribers, while Globe Telecom, Inc. had 87.4 million mobile subscribers.

“Before the third telco player’s commercial launch, the Philippines’ 4G median download speeds only stood at 11.15 megabits per second in the first quarter of 2021,” DITO said in a statement. — Arjay L. Balinbin