Smart files complaint vs Altimax, Globe unit over radio frequencies

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Sep 09 2011 07:14 AM | Updated as of Sep 09 2011 03:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - PLDT’s wholly-owned wireless unit Smart Communications has filed a complaint with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against Altimax Broadcasting Co. and Globe Telecom subsidiary Innove Communications Inc. for the alleged illegal use of radio frequencies.

Smart specifically asked that the Altimax radio frequencies acquired by Globe be recalled and made available to qualified applicants under competitive public bidding.

“We are now asking the commission to immediately order Altimax to cease and desist from leasing out the questioned frequencies, and Innove from the use thereof. And with their multiple violations, we ask for the frequencies previously granted to Altimax to be recalled and revoked and to make these frequencies available to qualified interested telecommunications service providers,” Smart said.

In its complaint, Smart stressed that Altimax’s lease of its broadcast frequencies to Globe in 2009 for the latter’s use in providing wireless broadband services was patently illegal from the start since such arrangement was not authorized by Congress and the NTC and worse, was entered into at a time when Altimax had already lost its legislative franchise due to non-operation.

“Altimax’s congressional franchise became void by operation of law a long time ago due to continuous non-operation for three years from the date it was granted by Congress,” PLDT regulatory affairs and policy head Ray Espinosa said.

Smart cited Sec. 6 of Republic Act 8607 which states that the legislative franchise of Altimax shall be deemed ipso facto revoked in the event that it fails to commence operations one year from the approval of its permit by the NTC, to operate continuously for two years and commence operations within three years from the effectivity of the law.

“More than 10 years after it was granted provisional authorities to install and operate a Direct Broadcast System (DBS) and a Multi-channel Multipoint Distribution System (MMDS) by the NTC, Altimax has still not rolled out its DBS and MMDS services,” Espinosa said.

Altimax was originally assigned 48 megahertz of nationwide frequencies in the 2596-2644 band and was granted permission in December 2000 to use these frequencies for the purpose of carrying out its MMDS service. But Altimax failed to roll out its MMDS service (or wireless cable TV service) within the period allotted by the NTC until the time its provisional authority was set to expire on June 2002, Smart noted.

The broadcast firm filed for a motion of extension of its provisional authority which the NTC granted, giving it until June 2005 to meet the specified conditions. But like in the first instance, Altimax once again failed to comply, prompting the NTC to deny its new motion to extend its PA in an order dated Sept. 19, 2007.

On October 2009, Altimax entered into a memorandum of agreement with Innove to use specific Altimax frequencies for the roll-out of broadband wireless access (BWA) to Innove’s subscribers.

Aside from Altimax’ unlawful lease of its frequencies to Globe’s Innove and the latter’s use of the frequencies for a different purpose, Espinosa also said Altimax is “illegally holding on to valuable radio frequency which should be immediately recalled and bidded out to interested qualified service providers for broadband wireless access.”

This, according to Espinosa allowed Globe to conspire with Altimax to evade the proper procedure governing the application and grant of radio frequencies.