Now Telecom Co. Inc., formerly known as Infocom Communications Network Inc., has secured an extension of its congressional franchise to build and operate a telecommunications network until 2043 as President Rodrigo Duterte signs Republic Act 10972 on February 22. This law renews the franchise of Now Telecom for another 25 years.
The law specifically grants Telecom Co. Inc. “a franchise to construct, establish, operate and maintain mobile radio systems such as radio, paging systems, cellular phone systems, personal communication network, and trunked radio systems within and without the Philippines.”
Now Telecom, which is about 19 percent owned by publicly-traded Now Corp., is among those vying to become the country’s third telco firm, which the Duterte administration hopes will soon break the PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom duopoly.
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has set the tentative bid deadline for the country’s third telecommunications player on May 18, 2018.
Now Corp. CEO Mel Velarde, who shared the news in a social media post, said Now Telecom had secured a “tri-mega franchise”.
Based on its franchise, Now Telecom would be able to build, operate, and maintain mobile radio systems, such as radio paging systems, cellular phone systems, personal communications networks, and trunked radio systems.
The scope covers all electronic communications services in the Philippines, and between the country and other territories “including outer space as public interest may warrant.”
Kristian Pura, Now’s head of business development, said the company’s franchise is similar to those of the country’s largest telco providers, which means that it can compete with the services they offer.
A company or consortium needs to have a telco franchise to be able to qualify as a potential contender in the upcoming third telco player bid. The franchise should be valid at least until December 31, 2023.
It should also have a net worth of at least P10 billion; must be 60 percent Filipino-owned; and should have no liabilities with the National Telecommunications Commission, based on the draft terms of reference issued by the DICT.
Moreover, the company should not be a related party to any group with at least 40 percent market share in the “mobile and broadband wireless” segments. So far, that definition covers PLDT and Globe.
Now Telecom’s franchise includes a provision for mobile number portability. This is in line with moves by Congress to allow subscribers to keep their mobile numbers for life even if they change their telco providers. The Senate recently approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 1636 or the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act.