Philippines to hold auction for 3rd telco in mid-2017

The Philippines' telecoms regulator NBTC plans to hold a spectrum auction for a third entrant into the mobile market in mid-2017.

The spectrum surrendered by incumbents Globe and PLDT as a condition of their acquisition of San Miguel's telecoms assets will be bundled together for the auction, Rappler reported.

According to the report, spectrum in the 700-MHz, 2500-MHz, 800-MHz and 3500-MHz bands will be put on the block.

Several groups have already expressed an interest in potentially participating in an auction to create a third operator. Conglomerate San Miguel had originally intended to fulfil this role, but negotiations with Australia's Telstra to form a joint venture for the purpose fell through earlier this year.

San Miguel subsequently sold off all its telco assets to the two incumbent operators for around $1.5 billion. The main motivation was to gain a part of the 700-MHz spectrum band, which San Miguel held the exclusive rights to.

But as a condition of the acquisition Globe and PLDT were required to relinquish part of the 700-MHz band - as well as spectrum in the 850-MHz, 2500-MHz and 3500-MHz bands - to allow for the potential entry of a third competitor.

Advocacy groups have expressed concern that the bundle of spectrum due to be put up for auction will not be enough to sustain a major third player, noting that PLDT and Globe between them own nearly 80% of the total available spectrum. Parts of the remaining 20% will be unusable due to the presence of guard bands.