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Telco firm gets franchise extension until 2043.

Now Telecom Co. Inc. secured an extension of its congressional franchise to build and operate a telecommunications network until 2043.

The company, which is about 19-percent owned by publicly traded Now Corp., is among those vying to become the country's third telco player, which the Duterte administration hopes will soon break the PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom duopoly.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) set the tentative bid deadline on May 18.

Now Corp. CEO Mel Velarde, who shared the news in a social media post, said Now Telecom had secured a 'tri-mega franchise.'

Based on its franchise, Now Telecom would be able to build, operate and maintain mobile radio systems such as radio paging systems, cellular phone systems, personal communications networks and trunked radio systems.

The scope covers all electronic communications services in the Philippines and between the country and other territories 'including outer space as public interest may warrant.'

Kristian Pura, NOW's head of business development, said the company's franchise was similar to those of the country's largest telco providers, meaning it could compete with the services they offer.

A company or consortium needs to have a telco franchise to be able to qualify as a potential contender in the upcoming third telco player bid. The franchise should be valid at least until Dec. 31, 2023.

It should also have a net worth of at least P10 billion, be 60 percent Filipino-owned and should have no liabilities with the National Telecommunications Commission, the draft terms of reference issued by the DICT showed.

Moreover, the company should not be a related party to any group with at least 40-percent market share in the 'mobile and broadband wireless' segments. So far, that definition covers PLDT and Globe.

Now Telecom's franchise includes a provision for mobile number portability. This is in line with moves by Congress to allow subscribers to keep their mobile numbers for life even if they change their telco providers. The Senate recently approved on third and final reading the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act or bill No. 1636.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 24, 2018
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