Third telco DITO eyes building base stations in public schools; DepEd 'evaluating' proposals

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2020 02:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 18 2020 03:37 PM

A teacher waits during a ceremonial turn-over and distribution of Learning Continuity Packages for Manila public school teachers and students at the Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School in Manila on August 26, 2020.George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - DITO Telecommunity said it was "negotiating" a deal with the Department of Education to co-locate or build base stations in public schools. 

Once approved, the third telco would be able to build facilities within school premises while providing the education department access to "immediate internet connection," DITO chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago told reporters in a virtual press briefing.

Public schools are adopting blended and distance learning, or the use of internet and modules, while waiting for the COVID-19 vaccine. Public schools resume classes on Oct. 5.
 

"We’re negotiating with DepEd to allow us to co-locate our base stations in some of their facilities. We're hoping that this is a mutual opportunity because we would be able to provide coverage to areas that will need it. DepEd on the other hand will have immediate connection and immediate internet service,“ Santiago said.

The Department of Education confirmed it has received proposals from DITO as well as other telecommunications firms and a common tower builder to co-locate, build towers and facilities within public schools. 

The agency said it is "open" to such deals subject to due diligence and safety of students and teachers. Optimizing gains for the government is also important, Education Usec. Alain Pascua, who chairs the review committee, told ABS-CBN News. 

As of today, DepEd's Legal Affairs is evaluating proposals from DITO Telecommunity, Globe Telecom and common tower builder ISOC, Pascua said.

"The common proposal there, is to co-locate their towers inside the schools...We are open for such kinds of agreement, as long as the safety of students, teachers and personnel, that’s number one non-negotiable 'yan [the] safety consideration," Pascua said.

"But we are also exercising our due diligence on this matter, para naman sa ganon ay hindi naman dehado ang pamahalaan, di naman dehado ang kabataan (so that the government and the youth will not be at a disadvantage)," he added. 

Schools will get internet bandwidth, SMS, data and other kinds of services including shared power from telco towers under the proposals they have received, Pascua said.

"Marami silang ino-offer na benefits (there are a lot of offered benefits) and we’re looking at these considerations," he said.

Some schools that span 5 to 10 hectares may be capable of housing telco facilities but not those that are as big as the Eiffel tower, Pascua said in jest. 

"Siyempre ang parati natin tinitingnan diyan is advantageous ba ito sa government or advantageous ba ito sa learners, teachers or not? At kung kaya ba o maluwag ba yung paaralan," he said.

The Department of information and Communications Technology also has a government-to-government proposal for DepEd to facilitate co-locating deals which is also being reviewed, Pascua said adding nothing has been finalized yet.

DITO recently signed a deal with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to build towers within military camps. The pact raised concerns of spying and espionage coming from its ties with state-run China Telecom.

Technology always comes with concerns, Pascua said, adding that there are safety nets that can be placed to "obstruct" or "hamper" such concerns. 

DITO is set to launch commercially in March 2021.