Globe Telecom, the largest mobile operator in the Philippines, said it initiated discussions with third parties about setting up a tower company to speed up the deployment of cellular towers across the country.

The operator said in a statement it is looking at divesting all or part of its tower assets, totalling more than 8,000 sites nationwide, to an independent tower company as part of its network expansion and optimisation plan.

Ernest Cu, Globe president and CEO, (pictured) said: “We have been allocating more than 30 per cent of our total revenues to capital expenditure for the past five years and this level will be sustained over a period of time. An independent tower company will be a win-win solution. It will monetise assets for capex use and help maintain our consistent dividend policy.”

A Globe representative told Mobile World Live an NDA kept her from providing details on the number of companies it approached or the size of a potential deal.

Cu said the move would support President Rodrigo Duterte’s push to open the telecoms industry to new players.

Opening access
The towers held by a third party would to be open for lease to new and existing players, which Cu said would lower the barriers to entry for new companies.

Globe, with a 50.5 per cent share of the country’s mobile connections, estimates the Philippines needs an additional 50,000 towers to optimise network deployments.

The operator previously complained the Philippines has one of the lowest tower densities in the world, with less than 20,000 towers serving a population of 101 million people, due mainly to government red tape. Vietnam, with a population of 90 million, has about 70,000 towers, while Bangladesh and Pakistan each have more than 30,000.

Cu said Globe hopes to continue working with the government to simplify the complex processes an operator needs to navigate to acquire permits and rights-of-way to site locations.

A number of mobile operators in the region have taken steps to sell off their tower assets, including Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular and Vodafone in India, and XL Axiata in Indonesia.