Extelcom seeks re-entry into cellphone business

By Mary Ann LL. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 27 2009 11:06 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2009 07:06 PM

Express Telecommunication Co. (Extelcom) is asking the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for   additional frequency band as it seeks to re-enter the cellular mobile services business.

The move followed reports food and beverage congolomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is eyeing a possible partnership with, if not an acquisition of Extelcom in line with SMC’s plan to expand its presence in the telecommunications business.

SMC president Ramon Ang and Extelcom officials reportedly met with NTC officials to present their plans for the telco, including the shift by Extelcom from analog to digital.

The return of a “re-energized” Extelcom into the cellular mobile telephone system (CMTS) business will further foster healthy competition in the market, according to Extelcom OIC Luisito Sapiera.

He said Extelcom’s proposed CMTS network will help trigger the next wave of much-needed changes in the Philippine market, such as substantial acceleration of subscriber penetration, increased competition on prices and service offerings and vast improvement of service quality.

“The history of Philippine telecoms regulation has always shown that the entry of new, active players had always redounded to the considerable benefit of the Filipino consumers,” Sapiera pointed out, adding that Extelcom is prepared to play a dynamic part in the next phase of the industry’s growth.

Extelcom plans to use its existing frequency assignments, particularly the 880-890 MHz frequency band, together with its paired link, the 925-935 MHz frequency band, which it is asking from the NTC.

The firm already has a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for the operation of CMTS.

Extelcom’s CPCN had been issued on the basis of a plan for a CMTS network using the analog-based advanced mobile phone system (AMPS), which has been rendered obsolete and outdated by developments in digital communications. Thus, it has to clearly move away from the defunct AMPS to the improved digital GSM platform.

The 880-890 MHz band and its paired link, the 925-935 MHz band, have been identified by the International Telecommunications Union as suitable for offering CMTS on the GSM platform and will allow Extelcom to optimize voice call services and at the same time allow it to offer short messaging services (SMS), or more commonly known as text messaging.

Extelcom officials also announced that their marketing strategy will focus on service quality and affordable voice call rates in order to narrow the cost difference between voice calls and SMS.

Informed sources disclosed that Extelcom’s situation is altogether unusual because a court order presently prohibits the re-allocation and re-assignment of the 880-890 MHz frequency band to any entity or company other than Extelcom.

“The use by Extelcom of its assigned frequencies to offer CMTS on a GSM platform will result in the most economical and judicious utilization of these frequencies, which is in line with the NTC’s mandate to promote the most efficient and effective use of these scarce public resources,” Extelcom said.

The company also assured the NTC that it has the necessary resources to pay all spectrum user fees and supervision and regulation fees, noting that it has completed its financial reorganization and is on schedule with its court-approved rehabilitation plan.