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‘FILIPINO CONSUMER IS KING’ – PIMENTEL

Senate President Koko Pimentel III welcomed the Senate’s unanimous approval of Senate Bill No. 1636 or the “Lifetime Cellphone Number Act,” saying the measure complements the Duterte Administration’s efforts to introduce a third player in the country to break the telecommunications duopoly “that has limited the options of Filipino consumers who are dissatisfied with the current state of telco services.”

Competition is really the driver that will force these telco companies to improve their services.

“Competition is really the driver that will force these telco companies to improve their services. Absent this, they really have no motivation to address persistent issues like slow data speeds, dropped calls, and missing prepaid loads,” explained Pimentel, which would require telcos to provide consumers with “mobile number portability (MNP),” the option to retain one’s existing mobile number even if a subscriber moves from one telco provider to another, or when one changes the nature of one’s subscription from prepaid to postpaid, or vice-versa.

This will pave the way for real competition and will ensure that where telecoms services are concerned, the Filipino consumer is king.

According to the Senate chief, “the passage and operationalization of this measure, together with the long-overdue introduction of a third player, will pave the way for real competition and will ensure that where telecoms services are concerned, the Filipino consumer is king.”

The measure penalizes telcos with fines of up to one million pesos should they delay, withhold, refuse or otherwise not deliver the benefits of mobile number portability to a mobile subscriber 24 hours from the time a subscriber completes his or her porting application.

The bill would also mandate the elimination of “interconnectivity” fees imposed by telecommunications entities on subscribers for calls and messages across different networks.

The senator from Mindanao said that President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated insistence on the introduction of a third telco player “reflects the President’s concern for long-suffering telco subscribers, as well as a keen understanding of the steps necessary to address their problems.”

The President has said that a third player should be operational in the country by this year. The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has set the bidding for a new telco player for May 2018.

The DICT estimates that a new player could spend anywhere from 150 billion to 300 billion pesos in its first five years of operations. Among groups that have shown interest are companies such as Now Corp., Philippine Telegraph & Telephone Corp., Converge ICT Solutions Inc. and G. Telecoms.

DICT officials have said that telco companies from China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea have also showed interest. However, they would be required to partner with local groups given the 40% foreign ownership limit set by the Constitution.

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