The Philippines is one of many countries that still provides slow internet speed that Filipinos have been enduring ever since. Telecommunication companies have always promised to deliver the best quality of internet service to their consumers. However, their promises are not fulfilled, as shown in many consumers’ online posts. Because of this, a new telecom company in the country who is set to uplift the Filipino expectations with regards to their internet service’s speed makes its debut.
Formerly known as Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, Incorporated or Mislatel, DITO Telecom is composed of Udenna Corporation, Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corporation, and China Telecommunications Corporation or China Telecom. The said company was founded by Dennis Uy, a well-known Chinese-Filipino businessman and founder of the first aforementioned corporation.
The said telecom is committed to cover at least 37 percent of the population, with an average minimum internet speed of 27 megabits per second (Mbps). It is also required to put up 2,500 cell towers by July 8, 2020.
Would this be a promise of faster internet speed for the country or just another case of Chinese invasion controversy?
DITO and its humble beginnings
At first, DITO was called Mislatel and it has been existing for over 20 years. The company was able to get its first congressional franchise way back in 1998 under the Republic Act No. 8627. With this provision, the company was allowed to construct, install, establish, operate, and maintain a telecommunication system throughout the Philippines. Despite having permit approval from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), however, the said company had failed to start its operations in that same year.
The selection of the country’s third telecom
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, around the first quarter of 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte wanted to establish a new and third telco player in the country. An announcement was made before that pertains to the President offering China the privilege of becoming the third telecommunications carrier in the country.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) then held an official bidding on their official Facebook page. The agency announced that Mislatel was the only bidder that was able to submit a complete set of requirements. This forced the other companies like the Philippine Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (PT&T), Sear Telecom Consortium of Tier One Communications, and Luis Crisologo Singson (LCS) Group of Companies, who were gunning for selection, to step aside.
Getting a license to operate and sealing partnerships
Mislatel got its approval of transfer, sale, or assignment of controlling interest under the House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 23 which was filed on December 3, 2018. The Senate adopted it with amendments on February 6, 2019 before the House agreed with the Senate’s amendments. Following that approval, on July 8, 2019, the company was able to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) which would allow it to operate as the third major telecommunications company in the country. That certificate was presented by President Duterte himself, DICT Secretary Gregorio Honasan, and NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba in a ceremony held at the Malacañang Palace.
With the license of operations granted, the company vowed to offer only 4G technology in line with its commitment to increase internet speed in the country to 55 Mbps. The company also issued a statement wherein it would be renamed DITO Telecommunity Corporation. “Dito” was said to be derived from the Filipino word meaning “here” (referring to the Philippines), which is a response to the stakeholders’ question on where they plan to set up a firm that would provide world-class service.
The company is set to build its telecommunications space in an eight-hectare property at Clark Global City where it will hold its operational departments, network operations center, serve-call center, and regional center while also serving as a hub for DITO’s Research and Development. After this plan was established, the company signed a partnership deal with Luis Chavit Singson’s LCS Group and Sky Cable Corporation for the lease of common towers which will be put up nationwide and the utilization of unused fiber-optic cables within Metro Manila.
Planning of official launch and a controversial petition to cease
DITO reported that it is really ready for its March 2021 commercial launch due to the fact that it has done several successful series of local and international test phone calls. It was also mentioned in the report that the local calls determined the representation of the five DITO vendors in the country, namely Huawei for North Luzon, Northern and Southern for National Capital Region (NCR); ZTE for South Luzon and the Visayas; and Huaxin for Mindanao. While for international calls, one was made to Hong Kong and another to Beijing with China Telecom. It was also in that report that the company stated that the pandemic caused a number of key infrastructure delays, but the launch will proceed as scheduled. The company also mentioned that it is hiring more staff to support network expansion in line with its target launch.
Despite this success already in reach by the said telecom, a petition has been launched asking Congress to stop its entry as it is a China-backed company as well as the concerns of some Filipinos with regard to their national security and invasion of privacy. An online petition filed at Change.org says that the petition was created to tell the Philippine Congress to stop the entry of DITO Telecom into the Philippine telco industry until its risks to the country are thoroughly assessed. It also mentioned that it seems like the country is giving Huawei free access to the citizens’ data, whether it be government, military, corporate, or personal. This gives China unprecedented potential to control sensitive aspects of our lives and our country’s governance.
One important thing to remember with this petition is that the government needs to take a closer look into DITO Telecom and determine where its loyalties lie. Otherwise, this so-called cure for the Philippines’ telco problem may turn out to be terminal cancer.
As a citizen of the Philippines, you need to choose whether you would be able to trust DITO and its promise of a faster internet speed, or be loyal to your respective internet service provider.
LAYOUT BY: Cristine Joie Q. Bacud
PHOTO SOURCE: Canva Contributors