Emphasizing that government support is essential in enhancing ICT development in the country to further boost economic growth and create employment opportunities, Globe Telecom reiterates call for closer collaboration with the government in developing key telecommunication infrastructure.
“Time and again, we continue to call on the government to help develop broadband access in the Philippines by investing in internet infrastructure in rural and far-flung areas of the country. There is no substitute for government support if we are to achieve social inclusion of all communities as we aspire for further economic growth,” Globe President & CEO Ernest Cu said, emphasizing that development of broadband infrastructure is particularly essential in communities where even basic infrastructure services such as roads and bridges are lacking.
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“In recent years, the use of digital technology has extensively enhanced the delivery of important government services. We hope that development of broadband infrastructure will also redound to improved business competencies and capabilities and in turn create more employment opportunities for Filipinos,” he said.
Cu pointed out that in 2015, mobile technologies and services generated 5.4% of GDP in Asia Pacific, a contribution that amounted to around $1.3 trillion of economic value according to the 2016 GSMA Mobile Economy report on Asia Pacific. GSMA said it expects GDP contribution of the sector to increase to $1.7 trillion as countries benefit from the improvements in productivity and efficiency brought about by increased take-up of mobile services and the adoption of new mobile technologies such as machine to machine (M2M). The report also said the sector generated 15 million jobs in 2015. Given the positive impact of 4G technology migration resulting in data traffic growth, economic stimulus and its impact on employment in the region are expected to climb in the years ahead, the GSMA added.
Despite the absence of public investments in enhancing broadband access and speed in the Philippines, the Southeast Asian economy scored high among Starters category of the Global Connectivity Index (GCI), published by Huawei Technologies, which measures how 50 nations are progressing with digital transformation using information and communications technology. Starters are countries in the early stage of ICT infrastructure build-out.
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The Philippines garnered a score of 33, the highest score given among countries classified as Starters, which are economies with an average GDP of US$3,000 and have GCI range of 20-34. The country advanced two notches from its previous score in 2015 at 31. According to GCI, countries classified as Starters focus on increasing ICT supply to give more people access to the digital world. To fully benefit from the digital economy, Starter economies need faster broadband expansion to ensure most businesses and citizens have affordable broadband access.
Akamai’ State of the Internet Report for the second quarter also showed that mobile internet speed ranking of the Philippines is in the top 6 in Asia Pacific with an average speed of 8.5Mbps. The report also showed the Philippines has achieved 105.1 Mbps peak mobile speed which is the third highest in Asia Pacific next to Australia and Thailand.
The Philippines ranking in e-government development also moved up to 71st out of 193 countries based in a survey conducted by the United Nations this year. The United Nations Public Administration Country Studies survey, conducted among UN member-countries, uses E-Government Development Index as composite indicator of the willingness and capacity of national governments to utilize ICT in the delivery of public services. Such ranking is a significant improvement from its 95th rank during the initial survey done in 2014. The survey is based on three important dimensions of e-government, namely, scope and quality of online services, development status of telecommunication infrastructure index, and inherent human capital.
Still, business viability is a concern among telco operators in most countries that keep them from deploying infrastructure in rural and far-flung areas, said Cu. In addition to investments in “missionary routes”, telecommunication operators also need government support in minimizing, if not eliminating bureaucracy in relation to the permitting process for cell sites and right-of-way for fiber deployment, said Cu, noting that the company needs to secure around 25 permits, spanning around 8 months, to build a single cell site.
Cu emphasized that given public clamor for better internet speeds and access, rationalization of the permitting process for telco infrastructure should be addressed as soon as possible. “We need the government not just as a regulator but especially as an enabler of the telecommunications industry. Rationalization of permitting process would substantially enhance ICT development in the country,” he stressed.
Cu said Globe needs to continuously build cell sites especially in relation to the deployment of the previously warehoused 700 MHz spectrum, which is seen not only to deliver additional capacity but also enhanced indoor coverage. However, Globe is able to deploy only around 450 cell sites a year even as it targets to build roughly around a thousand towers annually due to permitting challenges.