Launching in 160 days? DITO readies stores, SIM cards for March 2021 debut

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2020 01:55 PM | Updated as of Oct 29 2020 02:38 PM

DITO shows a store site in a major mall in Metro Manila. Handout

MANILA - Third telecommunications player DITO Telecommunity said Thursday it would start building physical stores in "major malls" nationwide as it gears up for its March 2021 commercial launch.

The telco signed a deal with a major mall operator where some of its stores will be located, the telecommunication firm said during a virtual press briefing.

"We will be building in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and we will be in the major malls," DITO chief technology officer Adel Tamano told reporters during its monthly virtual briefing. 

“We are really excited to launch the country’s latest telco and newest technology that the country deserve,” Tamano added.

The SIM cards for its "identified" target subscribers are also available, said chief technology officer Ret. Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago.

Both Tamano and Santiago refused to disclose more information on its target physical stores this year and the number of available SIM cards for the launch. 

"We already have our SIM cards. Enough to cover the target subscribers that our commercial team has defined," Santiago said.

In terms of telco towers, it has exceeded its first year commitment of 1,300. As of Oct. 28, the third player has built 1,532 base stations, enough to meet its commitment to cover 37 percent of the population for its technical audit in January. 

DITO needs to rollout its infrastructure to challenge the duopoly of Globe and PLDT Inc. Both Globe and PLDT have also been ramping up network upgrades.

"It bodes well that we will pass our technical audit. There are other towers that are not yet counted, towers being built by independent tower companies. It’s a very conservative estimate," Tamano said.

"Please don’t get the impression that we can easily do a commercial launch in a couple of weeks. But right now, we are hoping to maybe launch a little bit earlier, but it won’t be very far from the March 2021 commercial launch date," he said. 

DITO said it aims to build some 2,000 towers by end of 2020, enough to cover 47 to 49 percent. For its second year, it committed to cover 51 percent of the population, Santiago said.

Tamano said they went beyond its first year P150 billion capital expenditure. Its total P257 billion 5-year commitment might also be spent ahead of the timeline, he added.

NOT A CLONE 

Santiago said 4G/LTE would be the base coverage of the telco. It won't be using 2G and 3G which were considered legacy systems. 

In terms of 5G, DITO will use "standalone" technology which does not need 4G infrastructure, Santiago said, adding that this was what made them different from the duopoly of Globe Telecom and PLDT. 

DITO, a consortium of Dennis Uy's Udenna Corp and Chelsea Logistics with China Telecom. 

ChinaTel, Tamano said, is a globally recognized leader in 5G standalone technology. It has completed 4 technical 5G test calls earlier this month in NCR, Southern Luzon, Visayas, and Davao.

"We did not intend to enter the market and be a clone. We intend to have a leapfrog technology," Tamano said. 

Its 5G services will be part of its second year technical audit as DITO committed to provide 55 mbps speeds, Santiago said.

DITO's ties with the state-run China Telecom has raised national security concerns but the Armed Forces of the Philippines has said building telco towers in military camps poses "very low" security risks.

Watch more in iWantTFC

--- with a report from Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News