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NOW Telecom secures P188-M grant from US for 5G feasibility study

Sofia Tomacruz
NOW Telecom secures P188-M grant from US for 5G feasibility study

GRANT AGREEMENT. Filipino and US diplomats, along with representatives of NOW Telecom and Nokia Bell Labs, pose for a photo after signing a P188-M grant agreement.

Rappler

NOW Telecom picks New Jersey-based Nokia Bell Labs, the research arm of Nokia, to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed 5G network

MANILA, Philippines – NOW Telecom scored a P188-million grant from the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to fund a feasibility study on the potential development of 5G mobile and broadband networks in the Philippines.

A grant agreement formalizing the deal was signed by NOW Telecom Chairman and CEO Mel Velarde and Nokia Bell Labs Managing Partner Stefan Wilhem during the Philippines and US 10th bilateral strategic dialogue held in Manila on Friday, January 20.

The agreement – a follow up to an earlier announcement made by the Philippines and US to partner on 5G networks during the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to the Southeast Asian nation – sees the company move one step closer to establishing its own 5G network in the country.

In a grant offering technical assistance, the USTDA earlier identified the design of a 5G network as the first of three components it would assist, followed by the planning and piloting of such networks in the country.

According to a statement from the US embassy, NOW Telecom chose the New Jersey-based Nokia Bell Labs, the research arm of Nokia, to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed 5G network.

‘Secure online’

During the signing of the grant agreement, US Assistant State Secretary Daniel Kritenbrink likewise highlighted how the venture seeks to provide the Philippines safer online access.

“Filipinos can and should be secure online. Securing against malicious cyber activities is difficult even in the best of times, but it is infinitely more difficult when the risk comes from the entity that built and may maintain access to a telecommunications network,” he said.

“This 5G grant demonstrates the US commitment to developing quality digital infrastructure and increasing access to affordable connectivity in the Philippines,” Kritenbrink added.

Earlier in 2019, former US state secretary Mike Pompeo warned the Philippines of “security risks” posed by Chinese communications equipment provider Huawei Technologies, which partnered with the Philippines’ two telecommunication players, PLDT and Globe Telecom, in the rollout of their 5G networks.

With a feasibility study, NOW Telecom is expected to receive “the necessary analysis designs, and plans” for the implementation of its 5G initiative.

“It will also include the establishment of a 5G pilot network at multiple sites in Metro Manila to validate network performance, test 5G use cases, and provide data to inform larger scale deployment,” the US embassy said.

NOW Telecom was among the companies that aspired to be the Philippines’ third major telco player, but backed out on bidding day. Dito Telecommunity, a joint venture of Dennis Uy and Beijing-backed China Telecom, won that bid. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.