NOW Corp maintains affiliate is '4th telco player' in Philippines

Publicly listed NOW Corporation, the parent firm of NOW Telecom Company Incorporated, stood by its statement that the latter is now the 4th telecommunications player in the Philippines, despite regulators saying there is no such thing.

NOW told the local bourse on Tuesday, September 22, that "there is nothing inconsistent" with its announcement. In 2018, NOW Telecom did not pursue its 3rd telco bid.

"NOW Corporation stands by its statement about its affiliate, NOW Telecom Company Inc, being the 4th telecommunications player," said NOW Corporation.

In a BusinessWorld report on Tuesday, National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios denied that the country has named a 4th telco player.

BusinessWorld quoted Cabarios as saying: "In terms of market capitalization, there are 3 major players such as PLDT group, Globe group, and Dito. There are other players, namely: Converge, InfiniVAN, NOW Telecom, and many others. This list is not in any hierarchy."

But NOW Corporation pointed to Cabarios' statement to BusinessWorld that there are "4 entities" authorized to operate mobile networks, including NOW Telecom.

"The surge in the stock price of NOW is a clear indication of the public's response in welcoming an emerging major telco player," NOW Corporation added.

On Monday, September 21, NOW had announced that the NTC granted a "long-delayed" extension of its provisional authority (PA) on September 14, allowing it to install, operate, and maintain a nationwide mobile telecommunications system.

NOW Corporation opened at P2.68 on Monday. After its 4th telco announcement, it surged by 33%, closing at P3.58.

The PA granted to NOW includes operating in 4G and 5G technologies "or even outer space," it said in its statement.

The NTC set conditions for the PA, including additional capital infusion of at least P1.9 billion for the first two years, based on NOW's P6.3-billion capital expenditure program approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The NTC also directed NOW to accelerate the installation of broadband data service in suburban and rural areas. The network rollout must have a 70:30 ratio for urban to suburban and rural coverage.

In 2019, NOW Telecom partnered with Korean telco giant SK Telecom to help design its 5G network.

The telco arm had planned to spend $713 million for its 5-year 5G fixed wireless access plan, promising to offer a broadband plan of up to 10 gigabits per second (Gbps).

In August, NOW Group chief executive officer Mel Velarde said they were preparing to take their telco arm to "the next level" by moving forward with corporate restructuring to go public.

Velarde said they were gearing up to start their 5G rollout to residential and consumer clients, after first offering it to enterprise clients with speeds of up to 2 Gbps.

In 2018, NOW Telecom sued the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the NTC over alleged "money-making schemes" in the 3rd telco bidding. A Manila court, however, junked its plea to stop the questioned provisions. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.