Philippines' DITO eyes doubling of subscribers, US$1billion investment in 2022

MANILA, Jan 23 (Reuters): A new Philippines joint venture 40% owned by China Telecom has announced that it was on track to double its subscribers this year, supported by US$1 billion of annual investment in expanding coverage in the archipelago nation.

DITO CME Holdings' telecoms unit is hoping to book profits by 2026, or five years into its operations.

Since launching commercial services in March 2021, DITO has attracted 5.3 million subscribers in the Philippines, a country of more than 110 million people with only two other networks.

"The speed by which we can grab market share and grow is the limited by the speed by which we can build our network," Joseph John Ong, chief finance officer of DITO, told Reuters.

DITO was the sole qualified bid at an auction for a third license in the Philippines, after President Rodrigo Duterte demanded more competition and Chinese involvement to improve the sector, amid frustration over poor service quality.

DITO is controlled by Dennis Uy, a tycoon and hometown associate of Duterte and his biggest election campaign donor. His firm has insisted there was no conflict of interest.

The company, which is required to be able to reach 84% of the population and offer fast mobile internet by 2024, has pledged to invest $5 billion for its network rollout.

Investment is around $1 billion annually to build thousands of telecoms towers, said DITO President Ernesto Alberto.

Some lawmakers have expressed concern about cybersecurity risks from DITO's plans to set up towers on military bases given the Chinese government's stake in the firm. DITO has given assurances there was no espionage threat. - Reuters

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