By Ellson Quismorio
A House leader on Wednesday acknowledged some measure of uncertainty on the operations of Dito Telecommunity – the third major telco in the country – amid a reported move by the United States (US) government to block an undersea data cable that would link Los Angeles to Hong Kong, with the Philippines as one of its landing stations.
“Surely we will be at the losing end as well if it doesn’t push through,” House Information and Communications Technology Committee chairman, Tarlac 2nd district Rep. Victor Yap said referring to the Facebook and Google-backed subsea cable project from Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN).
Still without a single cell site, Dito will be relying heavily on the infrastructures of the PLCN to jumpstart its entry as the country’s newest telco and bring stiff competition to established players Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.
The 12,800-kilometer, cross-Pacific Ocean cable was expected to provide Dito the needed start-up requirement, especially since the project is expected to greatly enhance internet speed in the US and China.
However, this will face a major hurdle if the US Department of Justice decides to pull the plug on the project over issues of national security.
The tension over the undersea cable is said to be connected to the trade war between Washington and Beijing, with their countries imposing tariffs on each other since July 2018. Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of China.
“Those are investments made by US companies. As to how it will come out, I don’t know,” Yap said of the project.
“Part of it is a bypass that traverses terrestrial from La Union to Aurora (Baler). And they made a 25-year freebie to the Philippine government government via BCDA which I estimate at the value of billions of pesos worth of free bandwidth,” the Tarlac solon said.
China Telecom owns 40 percent of Dito Telecommunity, formerly known as Mislatel.
Dito is expected to roll out its services in the second quarter of 2020 and will aim to rival the duopoly of Smart and Globe, which have control over several international gateways (undersea cables) and almost 17,000 local cell sites.
“Surely it (Dito) can offer competition for cheaper data. That’s why we are batting for the open access bill passed with genuine provisions in the Senate,” Yap added. At any rate, he noted that PLCN wasn’t the lone subsea cable data supplier to the country.
Deputy Majority Leader Camiguin lone district Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo said the Philippine government can help guarantee the success of the third telco by establishing “redundancies” in the system.
“The government should ensure that, with regard to connectivity and infrastructure, both the public and private sectors have redundancies in place to ensure that service is always available to the public and consumers,” he said.
“So that even if the PLCN or other similar projects do not pan out, the government and telecommunications companies will still be able to provide the services they commit to deliver,” added Romualdo.
It was only last April when Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio announced the LA-Hong Kong subsea cable. The DICT is now closely monitoring the development. (Ellson A. Quismorio)