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San Miguel ready to go to battle for CURE – Ang
When 10 Mhz of spectrum goes on the auction block this year, competition for the frequency will likely be fierce

MANILA, Philippines – In the battle for one of the remaining available 3G frequencies, two of the largest conglomerates in the country are up against the other.  

Ramon Ang, the president of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp., declared on Wednesday, May 23, that they, too, will bid for the 3G frequency originally assigned to Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprises Inc. (CURE) and which the Ayala-led Globe Telecom desperately wants.

“We will bid to win,” Ang told reporters.

He said the 10-megahertz (Mhz) frequency in the 2100 bandwidth is the latest item on his acquisition wish-list.

The San Miguel group, which has been in an acquisition binge in the past years, is the newest entrant in the local telecommunication industry via units Liberty Telecommunication and Extelcom.

The country’s biggest telecommunication firm, Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), has to give up all its rights and interests in CURE as part of the conditions set by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in approving PLDT’s acquisition of third-ranked Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel) in October 2011.

After delaying turning over the frequency, PLDT recently promised to surrender CURE to regulators in July. PLDT would then be left with 25 MHz total frequencies.

If San Miguel were to win CURE, it would have 10 MHz of total spectrum, putting it in equal footing as the 2nd largest telecommunications firm, Globe.

In an April press con, Globe said that it needs CURE to maintain its premium customer base. At the time Globe CEO Ernest Cu, said he would “bid aggressively” for CURE, which will be instrumental in helping the company gain market share from PLDT.

Cu has remained confident the company will beat out a possible bid from Ang’s SMC. In April he pointed out that telecommunications requires massive infusions of capital and that Globe had already invested heavily in creating its network, so SMC would have to pour in more money now to compete.

Ang said his group will focus on broadband if they are not able to acquire CURE. “We would have to stay in mobile broadband which is not the biggest market in the telecoms industry. The biggest right now is SMS and voice.”

“Very soon, maybe within one year, we will offer voice and SMS. We are just waiting for the auction of the 21MHz frequency band,” said Ang.

San Miguel’s telco is present in the broadband arena under the wi-tribe brand which offers WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology that runs on a 4G (fourth generation) platform.

Ang suggested he would be willing to follow in the footsteps of Digitel and use low prices to undercut the competition.

“There are only two business models here.  Either come in and be a nice guy with hopes that they pity you and give you market share or come in with low prices and gain market share,” the executive said.

Asked about his chances to win the bid for CURE, Ang said, “We leave it up to God and through good luck for us to win…Timing is the key. But we will come to that.”

He explained that San Miguel’s telco interests would be housed in one group but the details are still be ironed out. –

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