MANILA, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines plans to announce the winner of an auction to become the country’s third telecoms player in June, as it seeks to improve services and break the lock PLDT Inc and Globe Telecom Inc have on the market.
Poor service quality has for years left Philippine consumers and businesses frustrated at the telecoms duopoly in a country that has 105 million people and one of the world’s largest rates of social media usage in terms of average daily duration.
So far, two domestic firms, Now Corp and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp, have publicly said they are planning to bid.
President Rodrigo Duterte has also opened up the auction for foreign firms to participate, albeit as a minority partner working with a domestic firm. He extended an invitation to China last year and Beijing has since given permission for China Telecom Corp Ltd to invest in the Philippines’ telecoms sector.
The National Telecommunications Commission said that a May 24 deadline for the submission of bids has been tentatively set, with a decision scheduled for the first week of June.
Officials said they would be looking at which firm could offer the best range of cellphone services, network coverage and speed of internet services.
The government is identifying frequencies not utilised by incumbent players and plans to re-allocate them, said Eliseo Rio, officer-in-charge at the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
The NTC is also studying the idea of firms sharing cellphone towers and of allowing number portability, which would allow consumers to switch service providers while keeping the same phone number.
Companies bidding in the auction are required to have a telecoms license. Around 30 domestic firms currently have one.
Government officials have said that while Duterte extended an invite to China for a firm to participate, there is no guarantee a bid involving a Chinese firm will be chosen.
PLDT and Globe, with market capitalisations of $6.4 billion and $4.4 billion respectively, say they welcome the competition.
$1 = 52.0000 Philippine pesos Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Edwina Gibbs