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NOW Telecom scores provisional extension to operate as 4th mobile telco


NOW Telecom Co. Inc., which is planning to go public, on Monday said it has scored an extension of its provisional authority (PA) to operate the country's fourth mobile telecommunications system.

According to NOW Telecom, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued the extension of the firm's PA last Monday, September 14, 2020, to install, operate, and maintain a nationwide mobile telecommunications system.

NOW said the PA is not specific to third generation mobile communications technology (3G), but this can extend to other technologies such as 4G, 5G, and even outer space.

The extension of the PA, however, is subject to a number of conditions which include the infusion of additional capital of at least P1.9 billion.

This is based on the two-P6.3-billion capital expenditure program for the first two years, as submitted and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"As the country’s fourth telco, NOW Telecom, an affiliate of publicly listed telecommunications, media, and technology firm Now Corp., is currently setting the stage for its public listing as well as its 5G or fifth generation network rollout," the company said.

NOW Telecom has appointed Unicapital Inc. as financial advisor for a planned corporate restructuring, and to serve as exclusive issue manager and financial planned listing by way of introduction (LBWI).

"We are moving forward with the corporate restructuring of NOW Telecom to take it to the next level," said NOW Group of Companies founder and chief executive officer Mel Velarde.

"NOW Corp and NOW Telecom were the first to introduce 5G broadband speed of up to 2Gbps direct to our existing enterprise clients. Our next move is to extend said service to the residential and consumer markets," he added.

To recall, NOW Telecom already secured regulatory approval extending its PA in September 2019, after it announced plans to enter the fifth generation (5G) wireless network a month earlier.

Frequencies

NTC Deputy Commissioner Edgardo Cabarios said, however, that NOW may not have enough frequencies to compete with incumbents Globe Telecom Inc., PLDT Inc., and third player Dito Telecommunity Corp.

"If you talk about mobile, tatlo lang. You have one coming in. Of course, NOW is an authorized mobile network operator... Meron siyang spectrum but of course limited," he said in September 2019.

He said then that most of the frequencies held by NOW are only on the 3,500 megahertz (MHz), the midband of the spectrum which can only cater to a niche market.

"You really cannot compete. Niche marketing lang 'yan. You are hitting a niche market. Otherwise, hindi talaga puwedeng makipagsabayan ka," he said then.

For his part, Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II earlier said the government plans to reallocate unutilized frequencies to make way for more telecommunicaiton companies to enter the market.

"We will rationalize that also. It will require getting back frequencies that are allocated. It requires a frequency management policy," he said.

Honasan noted, however, that the agency is focused on the entry of the third telco player before it can develop the envisioned frequency management policy.

Third telco player Dito Telecommunity missed its July 8 deadline for its technical launch which the company earlier committed to the government, as part of conditions as the third telco player.

The NTC has since given Dito six more months to satisfy its commitments, with the company saying it is on track to have its commercial launch or the onboarding of subscribers by March 2021. —KG, GMA News

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