PLDT eyes legal action vs NTC director

Chrisee Dela Paz

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PLDT eyes legal action vs NTC director
PLDT says NTC Director Edgardo Cabarios made 'misleading' statements in favor of San Miguel

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) is considering legal action against the head of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), following his published statements on the state of the 700 megahertz (MHz) radio frequency band held by San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

“It is unfortunate that NTC Director (Edgardo) Cabarios made misleading unofficial and personal statements regarding the true state of the 700 MHz radio frequency band in the country and the procedure involved in the repurposing of the use of radio frequencies under NTC rules and regulations,” PLDT regulatory affairs and policy head Ray Espinosa said in a statement on Tuesday, December 1.

He responded to several news reports quoting Cabarios as saying that the “700 MHz radio frequency band is a quasi-judicial matter. Before you can reassign or recall a frequency, you have to file a case before the regulator – citing either nonuse or nonpayment of spectrum fees.

Sowing confusion

PLDT’s Espinosa said these statements have created confusion in the minds of local and foreign investors who have been closely following developments in the Philippine telecommunications sector.

Philippine conglomerate San Miguel holds most of the 700 Mhz in addition to its 800,1800, 2300,and 2500 frequency bands.

PLDT, meanwhile, has rights to 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, and 2,100 MHz bands. Globe holds 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, and 2,100 MHz bands.

“In totality, San Miguel has more [frequency bands] than Globe and PLDT. Maybe, they are just waiting for a partner to launch a cellular service and use the bands,” PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said in a media briefing in Pasig City on Tuesday.

As early as 2005, PLDT and Globe said they already wrote the NTC requesting for an allocation and assignment of frequencies within the 700 Mhz and 800 Mhz for their broadband wireless network.

“He (Cabarios) made these statements despite being fully aware of the pendency of the applications of Smart Communications Incorporated and Smart Broadband, Incorporated before the Commission en banc since 2008 for an equitable allocation of the 700 MHz radio frequency band for mobile telecommunication use,” Espinosa said.

“If you want to spur competition, you have to make sure frequency band is available to existing and new telco players,” he added.

In a text message to Rappler on Tuesday, Cabarios said, “What I have replied about the 700 MHz was in reply to questions from the media and based on facts.” 

‘Beneficial for underserved areas’

According to Espinosa, PLDT’s applications “have become even more urgent in light of the more recent harmonization initiatives and actions taken by the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to which the Philippines are active members, for the repurposing of the 700 MHz radio frequency band from broadcast use to international mobile telecommunication use.”

Citing the World Radiocommunication Conference held in Geneva last week, PLDT said the ITU formally moved to allocate the 700 MHz band to the global mobile industry.

The Pangilinan-led telco said ITU officials said that this move was taken to help bridge the digital divide, pointing out that the long range of radio over the 700 MHz band will be especially beneficial for underserved, rural areas.

“Thus, Director Cabarios, if he had his way, would, without any legal and equitable basis, seek to deny these technological and commercial benefits from the current millions of subscribers of Smart and other mobile telecommunication operators,” Espinosa said.

“For these reasons, we have referred the statements of Director Cabarios to our legal counsel for appropriate judicial and administrative actions,” the head of PLDT’s Regulatory Affairs and Policy said. –

Telecommunications tower image from Shutterstock

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