PLDT Agrees to Return CURE 3G Bandwidth to Government for Free

PLDT, the Philippines’ largest telecommunications (telco) company, has agreed to return for free to the government the CURE 3G frequencies it acquired years back.

The Department of Information and Communications (DICT) reported this today, February 7, on Facebook. DICT Undersecretary/Officer-in-Charge Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. made the revelation in his social media account. He said he spoke with PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan (popularly known as MVP) regarding the frequencies.

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“After talking with MVP yesterday (Tuesday), PLDT will return the CURE frequencies at absolutely no cost, that can now be awarded to the New Major Telco Player (NMTP), as per instruction of PRRD (President Rodrigo R. Duterte),” said Rio, whom the President tasked to put in place the NMTP in the first quarter of 2018.

The breaking news was first reported on the popular IT/Tech online portal Newsbytes.ph. Earlier, Duterte warned those what he described as obstructing the establishment of the NMTP. He did not mention any name or organization.

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It was reported on Philippine Star on January 22 that PLDT wanted P3 billion for the CURE frequencies it bought in 2007 from Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprises and operated it as Red Mobile brand. The giant telco had returned the frequencies to the government as condition for Digital Philippines.

But the winds of change blew after the meeting between Rio and Pangilinan. No more payment. Meanwhile, apparently, it’s still a bit of an anticipation, and maybe a little more long wait, before Filipinos are saved from the grip of the Philippines’ telco duopoly.

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Yes, before millions of mobile phone users in the country can finally avail themselves of the services — hopefully, cheaper and, just as important, faster Internet and Wi-Fi — of the planned NMTP.

Surely, without a doubt, everyone’s wish, particularly the mobile phone- and smartphone-packing digital citizens, is that it would be WORTH the wait. The good thing about the plan is the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is not sleeping on its mandate to come up with the envisioned NMTP in the first quarter of 2018.

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In his widely-read and commented Facebook page, DICT Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. identified three major factors that give advantage to the NMTP. He said these three factors provide a lift for the NMTP “over the two incumbent telcos, Globe and PLDT/Smart.” Rio continued that these would empower the new entrant network carrier “to provide faster, less expensive and wider-coverage ICT services.”

What are these factors? They are, the DICT top executive said, according to his words:

1. It (NMTP) has no excess baggage of legacy equipment. It can leap-frog to the latest technology using the most modern equipment and systems that are now more service capable and much cheaper than those acquired a decade ago.

2. By later part of 2019, it can access the international gateway that the government signed with Facebook to get very inexpensive broadband costs. The landed cost of the bandwidth here in country, will be similar to that of HongKong or Los Angeles, USA, where costs are so much lower than that of the duopoly, because the government did not spend a single centavo on the submarine cables that brought the bandwidth to Baler, Aurora, from LA or to Poro Point, La Union, from HK. While the duopoly can also avail of the government Luzon Bypass Infrastructure (LBI), they have now so much unutilized capacity from their cable landing stations that it will not give them any benefits at all.

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3. It can use the Transco/NGCP nationywide Fiber Optic Cable (FOC) as its backbone and other government telecommunication facilities left by Telof. The incumbent telcos have to invest so much for their respective backbones that weighed down their ability to provide fast and inexpensive services to remote areas. With an available backbone in place the NMTP can plow more investment to unserved and underserved areas, where the duopoly are not going because they have to recover their massive investments in submarine cables, cable landing stations and a nationwide backbone, on top of operating and maintaining legacy systems.

Duterte, it can be recalled, gave the timetable last year, as he sought to break once and for all the so-called duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecommunications in the country of around 107 million people. He issued the order to the DICT and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which is also under the DICT.


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EDD K. Usman: 1st winner of “Best Science Feature Story” of 2018 UP Science Journalism Award on February 17; winner in June 2014 for Print Media in Kabalikat Award Media Category of PCIEERD-DOST Science Journalism Award; alumnus of United States’ East-West Center 2008 Senior Journalists Seminar; participant of South Korea 2000 Executive Seminar for Information Technology Journalists; senior journalist at Manila Bulletin until April 15, 2016; stringer/contributor at present for Rappler, Newsbytes.ph, Claire Delfin Online Magazine, Malaya Business Insight, Agriculture Magazine (of Manila Bulletin), and U.S.-based Philippine News. Traveled on assignment abroad more than 30 times. Reports about SciTech, IT, ICT, Current Events, and many other subjects under Heaven.

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