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Telenor in talks with potential partners to enter PHL market

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The Philippines is targeting to name the third telco player by December. -- BW FILE PHOTO

NORWAY’S Telenor Group said it is in talks with local companies as it eyes participation in the bidding for the third player slot in the Philippine telco industry.

Shanshil Ahmed Shibly, deputy director for regional operations of Telenor subsidiary Grameenphone, told reporters on Thursday they will “hopefully participate” in the government’s search for a “third telco,” as discussions are ongoing with potential local partners.

He said the company’s biggest edge would be its fourth generation (4G) and fifth generation (5G) data network.

“4G, 5G will definitely come. But definitely we will start with something like 4G,” Mr. Shibly said.

He noted the Philippines is an interesting market for Telenor because of its size.

“We are already doing very good business in Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Myanmar also, where we are close to No. 1. (The Philippines) market also has very good potential,” Mr. Shibly said.

Telenor is currently present in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh (as Grameenphone), Thailand (as dtac) and Malaysia (as DiGi).

It is one of several foreign companies the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has identified as prospective bidders in its initiative to find a third telco player.

DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo M. Rio, Jr. had previously named others, such as China Telecom, South Korea’s KT Corp. and LG Uplus Corp. and Vietnam’s Viettel Telecom.

According to the memorandum circular outlining the selection terms for the third telco, participating companies must involve a domestic company with congressional franchise, hence the need for a local partner.

Mr. Rio said the local companies that have expressed interest to join are Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T), NOW Corp., Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., Transpacific Broadband Group International, Inc. (TBGI), EasyCall Communications Philippines, Inc. and TierOne Communications International, Inc.

The government is targeting to name the winning bidder by December. The deadline for submission of bids will be on Nov. 5.

The winner will be selected based on its highest committed level of service, divided into three categories: annual population coverage for 40%, average broadband speed for 25% and annual combined capex and opex for 35%.

The winner will be awarded radio frequency bands of 700 megahertz (MHz), 2100 MHz, 2000 MHz, 2.5 gigahertz (GHz), 3.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz, which is expected to be sufficient to help it compete with incumbents Globe Telecom, Inc. and PLDT, Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez