'Everybody TikToking': Tower firm edotco says data demand to drive growth in PH

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 14 2022 06:51 PM

A cellular site tower  ABS-CBN News/File
A cellular site tower in Caloocan City on August 06, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Telco tower company edotco said on Tuesday that demand for network connectivity will drive the firm's growth in the Philippines.

Suraj Narayanan, acting country managing director of edotco's Philippine subsidiary, noted that a large part of the country's 110 million population avidly uses social media, which he said drives data demand.

"I see everybody TikToking everywhere. Demand for data is everywhere so that’s what we’re looking at and we are confident that the Philippines has a huge potential and we believe the Philippines will deliver," he said. 

Tower companies construct and operate cell towers for sharing or colocation among telecommunications firms, which reduces costs for telcos and allowed them to focus on delivering services to subscribers.

Narayanan said the Philippines currently contributes about 15 percent of the group's revenue, but this could potentially increase by an additional 5 to 10 percent in the next few years given.

"Philippines is probably the last country which has high potential growth in demand. It's just simply a good country for us from a business perspective...I am very optimistic to see that there will be a huge growth, especially with COVID it has made it a catalyst for further expansion," he added. 

The Philippines has one of the lowest tower-to-subscriber ratios in Southeast Asia with only about 26,000 towers. 

In 2018, the government said around 50,000 new towers need to be built for the country to be at par with its neighbors. The government then said it hopes to hit this target in 5 years’ time. 

CHALLENGES AND POLICY CONTINUITY

But Naranayan said it was more likely for the country to achieve this goal of 50,000 tower builds in 7 to 10 years.

He noted that the permitting process has improved in recent years. 

From up to 27 permits, which could take at least 8 months to complete, constructing a telecommunication infrastructure now only needs about 7 to 8 permits and could take about 4 months, he said.

Engaging the local government units could further enhance the process, he added.

However, homeowners' associations, who are wary of radiation, presented a challenge, Narayanan said. He hopes that this could be addressed by awareness campaigns and engagements.

When asked if the tower company has a call for the incoming administration, Naranayan said he hopes there should be continuity of processes that have "significantly changed the way telecommunication infrastructure is built in the Philippines."

President Rodrigo Duterte has earlier signed various measures to hasten telco builds. Even the country's coronavirus response law has a provision for the easing of permitting process for tower construction to help improve the country's network connectivity.

The group recently purchased 2,973 towers from PLDT Inc in a leaseback agreement for P42 billion. On top of that, it has completed about 100 sites since it started operating in the country. 

PLDT has also awarded the company a 750 build-to-suit tower deal, wherein it would construct new sites in locations identified by PLDT.

Aside from PLDT, edotco has also built towers and has signed agreements with Globe Telecom. It is also in the "final stages" of coming to an agreement with the country's third telco DITO Telecommunity.

So far, edotco has about 3,073 towers including the recent acquisition, making it the only common tower company with a presence across the country. 

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