ZAMBOANGA CITY, September 21 (PIA) - Residents of Zamboanga City may have to bear with less than ideal internet speeds for the next five years if no new cell sites are built the soonest, an official from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) here said.
During the Philippine Information Agency's (PIA) Kapihan na Zamboanga recently, NTC-9 officer-in-charge Elre Galo said the average internet speed here is 10Mbps but sometimes slower. However, residents who avail of higher data plans experience significantly higher speeds.
"Zamboanga City is not alone in experiencing slow speeds," he shared. "Other cities are also experiencing the same, if not slower."
The reason for this is that cell sites are already overloaded.
"In other countries in Asia, the average number of users per cell site is only 1,000 subscribers. Here, we only have 136 cell sites catering to an estimated population of 920,000 people," Galo explained. This translates to approximately 6,700 users per cell site.
Currently, the city has two major telcos -- PLDT-Smart and Globe. Galo said the two players have already been upgrading their systems to improve performance.
"In the past few months, they have been advising us of temporary shutdowns to upgrade their systems," he added.
However, these upgrades can only do so much to improve the over-all internet speed here, he said.
"What we really need are additional cell sites, but there are also other concerns," he said. Galo explained that although the two players expressed intention to roll out the construction of more towers, the companies are faced with "bureaucratic red tape". Each cell site, he said costs more or less Php5-million.
"They are required to obtain at least 25 permits from the government to build one cell site," Galo added. But he also added that the Bayanihan 2 Act is seen to address this concern as it will streamline the process of acquiring the necessary permits. The official is also appealing to the local government units to simplify the process of acquiring permits as the tedious process is "the reason why they (telcos) back down".
Meanwhile, Dito Telecom, the newest telco player is expected to be operational in the city within the year or early next year, Galo said. "Two Dito towers are currently under construction in the city."
"Dito promised they will give 27Mbps in their first year of operation, and this is covered by a bond. If they will not perform their commitment, they will lose a Php24-billion performance bond in favor of the government," Galo added.
As per the Speedtest Global Index as of August 2020, the Philippines ranks 119th among other countries for mobile internet speed with an average speed of 16.44Mbps, and 106th for fixed broadband speed with an average speed of 25.34Mbps.