NTC orders telcos to submit 2021 rollout plans to improve internet speeds
MANILA, Philippines — Telecommunication companies have until Wednesday, Jan. 20, to submit their rollout plans for 2021 on how to improve their internet speeds as ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
The requirement is in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to improve services to meet the demands of increased internet use due to online classes and work-from-home setups during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NTC said in a statement on Tuesday.
Submitting the plans this early would the NTC to closely monitor the telcos’ progress in improving their internet speed so that they could achieve better global rankings in Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index.
“Information on strategies will enable the Commission to extend telcos any assistance for the smooth implementation of their roll-out plans,” the NTC said.
Internet speeds in the country remain slower compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors and with other developing countries in the rest of Asia.
Last August, internet speed monitoring organization Speedtest by Ookla said that internet speeds in the Philippines were returning to pre-pandemic levels, after hitting a snag in March and April 2020 due to high usage rates.
Then in late December, Ookla’s Global Index showed that the Philippines’ internet speeds slightly improved, ranking 110th out of 139 countries with an average speed of 18.49 megabits per second (Mbps) — higher than November’s 17.15 Mbps.
A sense of urgency over slow internet speeds developed after President Duterte threatened telcos of expropriation or government control of their assets if they fail to improve internet speeds before the end of 2020.
Duterte issued the threat during his State of the Nation Address in July 2020, as the third telco group Dito Telecommunity was looking to break into the business.
NTC said that Dito’s entry prompted mainstays Globe and Smart to increase capital expenditures to provide better service — with Globe looking to spend P90 billion and Smart P92 billion in 2021.
In comparison, NTC noted that Dito vowed to spend P150 billion for its infrastructure rollout.
Also, companies told NTC about partnerships with tower companies in an attempt to increase coverage.
“Globe said that it has finalized partnerships with eleven tower companies, while Smart signified that it has already agreements with nine tower companies. New telco player, DITO, has also sealed agreements with three tower companies,” NTC said.
“DITO says that the number of towers it has completed to date, on top of the number of towers being constructed by independent tower contractors, is sufficient to serve the 37% population coverage which the telco committed for its first audit this month,” it added.
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