Now Telecom set the stage to enter the Philippines as the fourth major telecoms operator and launch 5G service by forging a partnership with a Singapore-based fibre network provider to build a nationwide backbone, Manila Bulletin reported.

Through a local subsidiary, HyalRoute Group aims to invest $1 billion to $2 billion to deploy a fibre network across the country, which it will lease to telecoms operators, ISPs and cable TV operators, the newspaper wrote.

The two companies last month signed an MoU to cooperate on the fibre buildout, which is scheduled to complete in 2028.

Now Telecom holds a cellular mobile telephone system licence as well as a 25-year congressional franchise to provide telecoms services.

Rodolfo Pantoja, Now Telecom president, told Manila Bulletin: “The nationwide backbone allows us to replicate our success in metro Manila with guaranteed throughput broadband services.”

The operator, which offers wireless broadband, broadband and cloud services to enterprises, last year submitted a bid to become the third major telecoms player. It lost out to Mislatel Consortium, which recently changed its name to Dito Telecommunity and plans to begin commercial service in late 2020.

Incumbents Globe and Smart are a duopoly in the market at present.

In October 2018, the country’s Department of Information and Communications Technology raised the possibility of allowing additional competitors, with its undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim saying the only limit to opening up the market is the amount of frequencies available: “If we have enough frequencies, we’ll allow a fourth telco, a fifth telco”.