No K-Pop endorsers for Dito’s March 8 rollout in VisMin, available nationwide by June

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President Rodrigo Duterte hands over the certificate of public convenience and necessity to Dito owner Dennis Uy in a July 2019 ceremony (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — Residents in select parts of the Visayas and Mindanao may sign up as Dito Telecommunity's first subscribers by March 8, with nationwide services not expected until a couple of months later.

The telecommunications network owned by Davao businessman Dennis Uy announced it is ready to onboard new users of its mobile network in two weeks, but SIM cards will be made available to Davao, Cebu, and 15 other towns and cities.

"There's a sentimental reason to that, because if you recall, before Dito became Dito, we were the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company," Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano said in a Tuesday briefing, referring to the parent firm prior to the joint venture with China Telecom.

"It's a launch that will move in waves," he added. "Actually, before June, we will already be available throughout the country."

The rollout was initially scheduled in July 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

At least 10 physical stores will be opened within southern Philippines before offering in other points of sale. Dito cell numbers will start with these digits: 0991, 0992, 0993, 0994, 0895, 0896, 0897, and 0898.

Brand ambassadors

Tamano said the commercial launch set two Mondays from now would be more of a "CSR" event, adding there won't be any celebrity endorsers to carry the brand.

"We'd rather spend on towers and network than on K-Pop stars," he said..

Its rivals Globe and Smart have hired top acts like Blackpink and BTS to get more subscribers ahead of Dito's launch.

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The third telco passed its first technical audit on Monday. The company committed mobile internet speeds of at least 27 Megabits per second or Mbps on its first year of operation, but the independent audit revealed that the average connectivity is at 85.9 Mbps for 4G and a whopping 507.5 Mbps for 5G.

Network coverage is already at 45% of the population, according to Rodolfo Santago, chief administrative officer of Dito and a retired military general. Additional towers will be built to hit the five-year goal of providing mobile internet speeds of at least 55 Mbps under a 5G network.

Dito officials refused to disclose its service offerings, saying they need to keep it under wraps to leap ahead of the Smart and Globe duopoly. Santiago admitted, however, that Dito is unlikely to turn profitable in the next year as it starts commercial operations.

The company will invest an additional ₱26 billion this year after spending ₱150 billion in 2020.

Cell towers

Dito's controversial plan to put up cell sites inside military camps have not yet pushed through.

The firm wants to put up five cell towers inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City –– the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines –– and in other military camps in the country. Santiago said they are still waiting for the final go-ahead from authorities before they start building.

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Both Dito and AFP earlier denied that the infrastructure will be used by China Telecom, a state-owned mobile network in the mainland, to spy on the military and compromise national security.

Tamano said their Chinese counterparts are "very enthusiastic" about the launch.

Meanwhile, the company said it is on track to construct over 2,000 cell towers nationwide to meet its second audit requirements. In five years, connection speeds must be at least 55 Mbps to 84% of the population. Average mobile internet speed in the Philippines is at 25.77 Mbps as of January 2021, according to the Ookla Speedtest Global Index.

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