The Philippines’ telecoms regulator aims to sell unused and unassigned spectrum by the middle of next year in an auction open only to new mobile players.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) will discuss the terms of the auction with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), but noted the available spectrum will be sold in one block.

NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said there is interest in launching a third mobile network in the country from at least two local companies – Converge ICT and NOW Telecom, BusinessWeek reported.

The newspapers quoted him as saying: “We plan to auction it as one whole [because] if you bid it out piecemeal the one who will get it will also not be able to compete… our idea is one group should be able to get it to enable it to become a third player.”

The frequencies will include 3G airwaves forfeited by PLDT after acquiring Digital Telecommunications in 2011, as well as spectrum in the 700, 2,500 and 3,500MHz bands returned by PLDT and Globe Telecom as a condition for acquiring San Miguel Corp’s (SMC) telecoms assets.

NTC announced plans last month to hold a 3G and 4G auction early next year, with interest from a number of companies looking to launch a new mobile network. The announcement came just a week after the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte warned the county’s two dominant mobile operators – PLDT-Smart and Globe Telecom – that he will open the market to Chinese competition if they fail to improve their poor service.

Smart and Globe, which control 99 per cent of the county’s mobile connections, in May jointly purchased the telecoms assets of San Miguel Corp, which previously was considering launching a third mobile operation in partnership with Australia’s Telstra to inject some much-needed competition into the market.