MANILA, Philippines — DITO Telecommunity, the country’s third major telco, is likely to miss the deadline for its “technical launch” set on July 8 this year.
DITO chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said during a hearing on Wednesday led by Sen. Grace Poe that the company had so far completed less than a quarter of the required number of cell sites to meet its first year commitments to the Philippine government.
A week before its technical launch, Tamano said they have 300 operational cell sites out of the 1,300 sites currently being built by DITO, which is backed by Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy and China Telecom.
Tamano said DITO needs 1,300 sites to meet the technical launch requirement to cover 37 percent of the Philippine population and provide a minimum average internet speed of 27 megabits per second.
This was revised lower from the 1,600 cell towers DITO committed last February.
Tamano blamed the delay to movement restrictions caused by strict lockdown measures imposed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from mid-March until the end of May 2020.
“The COVID-19 and lockdowns prevented us from our full rollout. With the subsequent easing of different lockdown situations, we are doing our best to get back on track,” Tamano said.
He added that DITO expects to finish 2,000 cell sites within 2020.
The technical launch, whose deadline was indicated on DITO’s license from the government, marks the start of a government-mandated audit on DITO’s commitments. Through an independent auditor, the process will include measuring the company’s internet speed and coverage.
This is different from DITO’s commercial launch, where the company can sell its service to paying subscribers. The commercial launch was earlier set on March 2021.
DITO won a government-led bidding exercise in 2018 to introduce new competition and challenge industry incumbents PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.
The bidding terms of reference also allows a grace period in case DITO fails to meet its deadlines.
Section 14 of the terms of reference state that DITO will be allowed two grace periods of six months each within the five-year commitment period.
DITO’s failure to meet its commitments will allow the national government to seize its P25.7 billion performance bond and recall the assigned radio frequencies.
By the end of its five-year commitment, Dito promised to cover 84 percent of the Philippines and offer a minimum average speed of at least 55 mbps.
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