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On the eve of launch, Dito battles to renew license

The US is not the only place where Chinese telcos are under harsh scrutiny.

Dito Telecom, the 40% China Telecom-invested Philippines operator, faces an uphill battle to get its license renewed.

The Philippines Senate is so far skeptical that the operator can meet its rollout commitments. Senators are also not satisfied with assurances over cyber-security.

Dito, 60% owned by Dennis Uy, a businessman and friend of President Duterte, is due to start its 5G service by next March.

Saturation point: There are doubts Dito can really take on Globe and Smart, the two Filipino incumbents in the mobile market.  (Source: Fiona Graham / WorldRemit on Flickr CC2.0)
Saturation point: There are doubts Dito can really take on Globe and Smart, the two Filipino incumbents in the mobile market.
(Source: Fiona Graham / WorldRemit on Flickr CC2.0)

It missed its original start date of late 2019, and then another in July this year.

The company's 25-year license, obtained through its acquisition of Mislatel in 2018, is due to expire in 2023.

Keep it civil

At a Senate hearing Monday, Senator Grace Poe, chair of the public services committee, cautioned the operator against holding the committee hostage, Philstar reported.

She said Dito should not have expected its license to be renewed unless it is able to meet its commitments without additional funding.

She said the committee wanted to prevent applicants threatening "they are not anymore rolling out unless they get that renewal of the franchise. I don't want our committee to be a hostage of that."

Dito says its rollout is on track. Six weeks ago it said it had deployed 1,532 cell towers nationwide, more than enough to meet its target of delivering 27 Mbit/s to at least 37% of the population in its first year.

Adel Tamano, Dito chief administrative officer, says it's been running a trial with employees and selected partners since March.

Securing the line

Senators also expressed concern about the lack of preparedness against cyber-attacks, especially given Dito's Chinese shareholder.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros described China Telecom as "a proxy" for the Chinese government who might enable a "cyber offensive" against the Philippines.

While some of this might be grandstanding, some analysts question the underlying viability of Dito in this market up against two entrenched competitors.


Want to know more about security? Check out our dedicated security channel here on Light Reading.


Its rollout is expensive, deadlines are tight, and prepaid ARPU, already at around $2, is likely to fall further.

The president hasn't done Dennis Uy too many favors, either. His frequent goading of the two incumbents has resulted in accelerated rollouts.

PLDT and Globe between them have added around 1,200 cell towers this year. Next year they will kick into a higher gear, planning another 2,000 cell sites each and capex forecast to rise by 20-25%.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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