Filipino mobile operator Express Telecommunications Company (Extelcom) has revealed details of a USD1.3 billion, ten-year capital spending programme designed to galvanise its re-entry into the domestic market. A report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer says Extelcom plans to expand and upgrade its infrastructure dramatically using funds sourced from a combination of debt and equity. In a statement, Extelcom said that given the opportunity to exit ‘rehabilitation’ it would become a credible telecoms player and heat up competition in the Philippines’ mobile market resulting in lower voice call rates and higher cellular penetration. The cellco has submitted an application request to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), stating its plan to focus both on network coverage and service quality. It aims to build a network with broad population and geographic coverage in the first five years, and has set a goal of installing 5,365 base stations across the country over ten years.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Extelcom was the country’s first mobile operator when it launched services in 1992 over its AMPS network offering services in the 800MHz band. However, the arrival of GSM competition marked the beginning of the end for AMPS, and the cellco soon found itself floundering in the wake of the likes of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications. Extelcom was awarded a GSM concession in 2001 and revealed plans to move to the new technology, but in 2003 it changed direction, and said it was looking to install a CDMA-based network instead. The operator appeared dead and buried until rumours emerged it was looking to re-enter the wireless market via the GSM platform. According to Extelcom director Luisito Sapiera, the company intends to utilise its existing frequency allocation in the 880MHz-890MHz frequency band, together with its paired link, the 925MHz-935MHz frequency band, which it is asking from the NTC. Earlier this month Filipino conglomerate San Miguel Corp confirmed it was in negotiations to acquire Extelcom, which is currently controlled by former creditor turned shareholder Trans Digital Excel Inc. Trans Digital holds its majority interest in Extelcom as a result of negotiations with Millicom International Cellular, one of the original shareholders in Extelcom.