Dito Telecom confident of technical audit, March rollout with over 1,500 towers built

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 29) — Dito Telecommunity said it is confident of meeting requirements set by authorities weeks ahead of its January 2021 technical audit of covering about a third of the population with mobile signal.

In a virtual media roundtable on Thursday, Dito chief technology officer and retired military general Rodolfo Santiago said Dito completed 1,532 cell towers nationwide –– more than enough to provide connection speeds of 27 megabits per second (Mbps) to at least 37% of the population in its first year.

He added that the expected 2,000 towers by yearend would comfortably provide 47-49% coverage.

The National Telecommunications Commission gave the firm owned by billionaire businessman Dennis Uy an additional six months for its technical audit which should have happened in July, after COVID-19 lockdowns forced the company to slow down on its rollout of backend and infrastructure works.

Dito was supposed to complete its technical rollout a year after it was given the license to operate as the country's third telco provider, meant to break the long-reigning duopoly of Smart and Globe.

Santiago said regulators will assess Dito's compliance on these two commitments by heading out in the field to various "test points" to check if the area is reached by Dito signal. From there, connection speed tests will also be done and collated, which will then be averaged and checked against the NTC commitments.

"With the towers that we have, it really bodes well that we pass our technical audit. We can satisfy the 37% coverage," Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano added.

About 40% of Dito's cell sites will be rooftop towers. The completed towers are separate from common tower deals which will be shared with other providers.

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Santiago said the company has been aggressive in putting up these structures as its second audit in July 2021 is approaching.

"Safely, with 2,200 towers will cover the minimum 51% coverage. But we're not targeting just 51% – just like the 37%, we want the margin to be very, very safe so that our confidence of meeting our technical audit will be quite not challenging already," the Dito executive said.

Dito is ready to launch in March and is even seeking to join the market days earlier.

'Superior' 5G

Dito officials also teased impressive connectivity speeds, with the company's video presentation showing a mobile 5G speed test of more than 1000 Mbps.

Santiago said internal tests have pulled off four 5G voice calls in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, as well as sample video calls.

"That's the promise of 5G, that's really the technology. Ang drawback lang ng technology ng 5G, if your data package is one gigabyte, it will be consumed in two seconds," Santiago explained.

Tamano said Dito's 5G service would be "superior" to that offered by their counterparts, as the telco will be counting on new "stand-alone" infrastructure rather than Smart and Globe's legacy 4G.

Market launch

Dito is expected to offer its mobile network services to organic customers, with SIM cards already produced and plans and promos being prepared. He did not share details.

Subscribers looking to jump from existing networks have to wait until about mid-2021 to keep their existing cell numbers despite changing providers. Tamano said work is still being done by the three telco companies.

Meanwhile, those awaiting blazing 5G speeds also need more patience.

"Our first milestone of 27 Mbps can be served by our 4G LTE network. However, our second year milestone which is 55 Mbps, medyo challenging 'yun if you're only using 4G. You will expect that on our second year technical audit, we will have 5G services," Santiago said.

Dito is now building physical stores nationwide, including in major malls. Workers are also being hired for sales and technical ends, with the Dito workforce now at 626 against a target of 1,000 employees.

RELATED: Dito vows access in far-flung areas, aims to cover over 80% of population in 5 years

The Uy-led telco firm posted a ₱25.7-billion performance bond for its commitments under its new status. This may be forfeited if Dito fails to provide at least 55 Mbps mobile data connectivity to at least 84% of the country in five years.

"We don't want to remain as the third telco –– that's why we said we're the newest telco because we want to be number one. You can't be number one with a 5% subscriber base," Santiago added.