DICT Chief allays fears of potential Chinese espionage as third telco nears rollout

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) — Provisional third telecommunications provider Mislatel consortium may be granted its authority to operate on July 8, but its links to the Chinese government continue to loom over its credibility.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Business Roundup, Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio said China Telecommunications Corporation does not necessarily have to use Huawei products for its infrastructure.

"China Telecom said that they will not necessarily get Huawei products for their infrastructure here," Rio said in an interview with CNN Philippines' Business Roundup. Provisional third telecommunications provider Mislatel consortium may be granted its authority to operate on July 8, but its links to the Chinese government continue to loom over its credibility.

China Telecom is a state-owned telecommunications firm that owns 40 percent of the Mislatel consortium's shares, while local firms Udenna Corporation and Chelsea Logistics split the remaining 60 percent. Huawei, a powerhouse Chinese telecom equipment maker, has recently been blacklisted in the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring the company as a security threat

"The government is of course concerned with the executive order that President Trump came up with, but we are only one of the 170 countries where Huawei equipment have been made available to networks," Rio said.

He added that major telco players Globe Telecom and Smart Communications have been using Huawei technology and have signed partnerships with the Chinese giant for their 5G internet infrastructure.

"What we did was to make it the responsibility of the telcos that they will be responsible in assuring the government and the people that their networks will not be used as a threat to our national security, or else they will lose their license," Rio said.

Mislatel rollout soon

In a recent disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Chelsea Logistics said that the Mislatel consortium will be operational by July.

"We’re really hoping to get everything fixed by July," Chelsea President and CEO Chryss Alfonsus V. Damuy said. Chelsea Logistics is a subsidiary of Dennis Uy's Udenna Corporation.

This was confirmed by Rio, who said that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) can grant the consortium its authority to operate and its required frequencies as early as July 8.

"By the first year they will more or less have service in 37 percent of our country," Rio said, adding that these would cover major urban areas.

Improved internet speed

Vis-a-vis its initiative to assist a third telco player to break the current Smart-Globe telco duopoly, the DICT is also working on improving internet speed in the country.

"We are going into what we call a shared massive telecommunication structure," Rio said.

He explained that the department has been in contact with companies that could lay out fiber optics infrastructure, which they can lease to the telco companies, the government, and other telco players.

"This will be laid out late this year and we can feel the effect of this before the end of 2020," he added.

A recent study by analytics company Opensignal reported that the Philippines has the 16th slowest internet download speed and 11th slowest upload speed among 87 countries.

The nation has an average mobile internet download speed of of 7.0 Mbps and an average upload speed of 2.2 Mbps. 4G technology is available to 72.4 percent of mobile data users.

READ: The Philippines continues to lag behind in mobile data speed