DICT official hits red tape as PH endures poor net connection
MANILA, Philippines — Struggling with poor internet connection? It could be because the country has less than a third of the cell sites it needs.
An official of the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) on Thursday pointed to red tape as a hindrance for telecommunications firms to install more cell sites across the country, with the processing of permits at local government units suffering long delays.
DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. told a Senate hearing that delays in the approval of permits for cell sites have slowed down the construction of the critical ICT infrastructure, which determines the strength of mobile phone reception, and thus internet speed.
“It takes about 25 permits just to be able to put up a cell tower… The reason we can’t do it as fast as other countries is that a single permit takes one year (to process). We have so much red tape,” Rio told the Senate committee on public services.
He raised the matter at the hearing on emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis, where he proposed wider use of internet-based transactions, telecommuting and teleconferencing to lessen the need for people to go on the road.
Rio said the Philippines used to have a bigger network of cell sites than countries like Laos and Vietnam, but that it has been left behind due to delays in construction.
Currently, the Philippines has 20,000 cell sites, said Rio, far from the requirement of 67,000 towers to improve current internet speeds. The country has more mobile phone subscriptions than the total population, more than 90 percent of which are prepaid.
In comparison, Laos, which has a smaller base of mobile phone users, has 30,000 cell sites, while Vietnam has 55,000.
“That’s our real problem. We’re complaining of low internet speed compared to other countries… But, basically, it’s because we cannot even expand… And that (cell site construction) won’t even require government funds,” Rio said.
The Philippines has the second slowest average internet speed among 22 Asian countries, according to a 2015 report of internet metrics provider Ookla. The lag is more stark if compared to the rest of the world: 176th out of 202 countries, with an average speed of 3.64 mbps. Pakistan has it better at 4 mbps, Laos at 6.92 mbps, and Bhutan at 7.82 mbps.
The Philippine speed is dismal compared to topnotcher Singapore, which has an average speed of 122.43 mbps. CDG/rga