Mislatel's committed service, coverage 'disappointing' — Expert

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 31) — Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel) may have the technical capability to compete with the existing telecommunication providers in the Philippines, but an expert believes that its commitments are not enough to take the country to the forefront of the industry in Southeast Asia.

"From their track record they may perhaps have the technical capability, but the commitments that they made were actually quite not high enough. Nakukulangan kami," Pierre Galla, a telecommunications expert and co-founder of advocacy group Democracy.net, said on CNN Philippines' On The Record Thursday.

Mislatel is a consortium composed of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy's Udenna Corporation and Chelsea Logistics Holdings, partnered with the state-owned China Telecommunications, and the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Corporation, Inc. It has vowed to provide an average internet speed of 27 Mbps to 37.03% of the Philippine population in its first year of operation. For its second to fifth years in operation, the consortium committed to invest nearly ₱260 billion to cover 84.01 percent of the country with an average internet speed of 55 Mbps.

Such commitments, according to Galla, are "fairly disappointing" despite the group's promise to shell out hundreds of billions of pesos in upgrading its service and coverage in years after its maiden operation.

"We will merely be at par with our neighbors at present. Maiiwan pa rin tayo," he said.

"The money is not the issue. When we were crafting highest committed level of service we were talking about coverage and speed of as many Filipinos as much as possible," he added.

Galla, however, came to the group's defense against criticism that it won the bidding for the country's third major telco player because of its ties with China.

He said Democracy.net "does not see preferential treatment at all" in the selection of Mislatel as the third telco player.

"Our point of view would be which of the over 200 participants and several thousands of their affiliates would have been brought together to create this preferential treatment... when in fact some of those involved in the crafting of the ToR (terms of reference) are actually against the administration," he said. Galla was among those who crafted the ToR for the selection.

Mislatel won the bidding in November last year after its rivals Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. and the SEARS Telecom Consortium of former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson were declared disqualified for different reasons.

It is still uncertain, however, if the consortium will be allowed to operate after the Senate public service committee on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on issues regarding the validity of the group's franchise.

READ: Senate panel eyes curing provisions for Mislatel's franchise issue