MANILA, Philippines – Listed Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (PT&T), an aspiring 3rd major telecommunications player, is studying if it can use “dark fiber” optic cables in the country’s transmission lines for its own nationwide broadband network.
Ahead of the bidding for the selection of a 3rd telco player, PT&T on Thursday, March 22, signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) for the potential use of dark fiber in the Philippines’ transmission lines.
“These cables remain unutilized and can be used by PT&T for the purpose of building a nationwide broadband network,” PT&T corporate secretary Federico Prieto told the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) in a disclosure. (READ: Naming Philippines’ 3rd telco might take longer than expected)
Dark fiber, or unused optical fiber held by a firm, is attractive for network operators as they can just utilize a cable system that has already been built, said Pierre Galla, co-founder at ICT advocacy group Democracy.Net.PH.
“Dark fiber means fiber you can light up yourself. Someone else built it, but it’s for you to use it,” Galla told Rappler in an interview.
Attractive for network operators
Galla added that the dark fiber is more attractive compared to PLDT Incorporated’s and Globe Telecom Incorporated’s existing fiber backbones as there is “no need to share bandwidth.”
“Leasing bandwidth from another operator is typically expensive, especially when there [are] only a few of them,” he said.
With the memorandum of understanding signed, state-run firm TransCo will have the opportunity to confirm and validate the result of the technical feasibility study conducted by PT&T.
“Once the study is confirmed and validated, TransCo and PT&T may proceed to negotiate and discuss the execution of a definitive agreement,” Prieto said.
Galla pointed out that once TransCo’s fiber optic cable is lit up, “it essentially becomes a nationwide backbone.”
“PT&T [does] not need to build one. [They] just [have to] light this up, if that deal does push through,” he added.
Complementing National Broadband Plan
Back in October, TransCo, which controls the cables that underpin the Philippines’ power transmission system, said that it plans to diversify into telecommunications as a natural step and would petition Congress to amend its charter.
Last month, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said they would team up to use the dark fiber for the planned National Broadband Plan (NBP) until the grid operator’s concession lapses.
The two parties will “soon” sign an agreement to use the NGCP’s fiber optic capacity available for the implementation of the NBP.
The NGCP holds a 25-year concession deal to operate and manage transmission facilities, but TransCo still owns the assets.
DICT acting chief Eliseo Rio Jr told Rappler that the memorandum of understanding between TransCo and PT&T will not affect his department’s negotiations with the NGCP.
“It will not affect it at all. The dark fiber can accommodate the needs of the government and at least two telcos,” Rio said in a text message.
This was echoed by Galla, who said that the dark fiber can be shared as it does not necessarily have to be exclusive.
“Fiber optic technologies allow for multiple users on the same strand of fiber,” Galla said.
The DICT is still in the process of finalizing the terms of reference (TOR) for the selection of the new major telco player. Rio had said the selection of the country’s 3rd major telecommunications firm may have to wait until July this year. – Rappler.com
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