The country’s two largest telecom companies want the government to reduce other spectrum fees (SUF) after Congress passed the Zero Spectrum User Fee for Telcos Using Wi-Fi Act.
The bill mandates the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to effectively establish the zero SUF policy and regulation by not imposing charges, nor collecting fees from telcos for using WiFi or wireless data networks.
“We will most likely end with roughly the same P2.4 billion expenditure on SUF for 2021. While PLDT, Inc. (PLDT) and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) thank the House for passing the subject Zero Wifi spectrum fees bill, we also take this opportunity to reiterate our call for the reduction and/or rationalization of SUF for other spectrum/ frequencies,” PLDT Group said.
Spectrum fees imposed on PTEs are becoming unreasonable and excessive, said PLDT. SUF must be set at modest levels with a view to recovering only the regulator’s spectrum management costs as mandated by law, it added.
“We have been actively pursuing the lowering of spectrum user fees with the NTC and Congress, since we believe that telecommunications is now an essential service that should be made more affordable for users,” said Globe Telecom Inc. chief lawyer Froilan Castelo.
He said reducing the SUF would allow telcos to divert essential resources to much needed network projects instead of paying expensive fees.
HB 9851, approved by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate on September 22, is an effort by legislators to regulate exorbitant SUFs levied on telecoms firms, which in turn is expected to help “promote the acceleration of internet use in the country and the expansion of WiFi technology and infrastructure in unserved and underserved areas.”
Globe earlier called for the same zero rating of spectrum user’s fees for frequencies that are internationally considered as unlicensed frequencies, since “SUFs that are set too high in combination with taxes, regulatory fees and other charges on public telecommunications entities (PTEs) negatively impact economic growth and impedes digital transformation.”
The efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum provides considerable benefits to the economy and should therefore be maximized.
“When spectrum prices are set too high, operators are likely to invest less in their networks—which impacts the quality, affordability, and reach of services,” Castelo added.
While mobile service operators incur massive and sustained capital outlay for telecommunications infrastructure and pay costly spectrum fees, revenues per MHz of spectrum is declining.