The Mislatel Consortium secured a franchise allowing it to move ahead with plans to become the third major operator in the Philippines, with the group expecting to receive its operating permit in the coming weeks, BusinessWorld reported.

An acquisition of Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company, holder of the franchise, was approved by the country’s congress. Mislatel Consortium representative Adel Tamano told the newspaper the approval should clear the way for it to receive its certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) by July, clearing it to seek the required permits to roll out its mobile network.

After issuing the CPCN, the National Telecommunications Commission will then allocate spectrum across four bands to the operator.

Mislatel Consortium is now preparing to post a PHP25.7 billion ($492 million) performance bond, which it will forfeit if it fails to meet its rollout commitments.

In January, it said it plans to launch commercial service in late 2020 and cover 17 major cities after two years. It is targeting 37 per cent population coverage after its first year and 84 per cent after five years, when it aims to have 8,000 base stations nationwide.

The consortium comprises China Telecom, Chelsea Holdings and Udenna Corp. The group, which was selected as the country’s new mobile operator in November 2018, will take on Globe Telecom and PLDT’s mobile brand Smart, which combined hold a 99.8 per cent market share.