The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has given the fourth 5G network in the Philippines a grant to be used for a pilot project and feasibility study aimed at developing a “reliable and secure” 5G network in the country.
According to a filing from the operator’s parent firm, Now Corp, the aid will include design and planning for the operator’s phased 5G project execution, including trials in Manila to evaluate network performance, test 5G use cases, and give data to influence wider scale deployment.
Importantly, the aid also involves evaluation of alternative financing plans, such as government grants, equity or debt financing, and the amount of interest of funding groups. This is significant for a small and underfunded operator like Now.
NOW Telecom has received formalized technical support from the US Trade and Development Agency as a result of US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink’s recent visit to the Philippines.
“Filipinos can and should be secure online. Securing against malicious cyber activities is difficult even in the best of times, but it is infinitely more difficult when the risk comes from the entity that built and may maintain access to a telecommunications network,” Kritenbrink said during the signing of the grant documents with officials of NOW Telecom and the Department of Foreign Affairs on Jan. 20.
The grant, according to the US Embassy, will set up a 5G pilot network at several locations in the National Capital Region, which will be used to assess network performance, test 5G usage scenarios, and gather information for a bigger rollout.
The company touts itself as specializing in establishing connections between infrastructure projects in developing countries and the US corporate sector. This plainly demonstrates how the US is attempting to undermine Chinese investment in developing countries, particularly the use of Chinese telecom equipment. Now Telecom chairman and CEO Mel Velarde used Washington’s go-to phrase to describe the company’s objective: “to deliver a clean and secure 5G network.”
Due to its private ownership, Now telecom does not disclose its financial information. It already has 3.5GHz and 2.1GHz spectrum, and after purchasing local media player Newsnet, it just added 26GHz frequencies. Its parent company, Now Corp, a fixed wireless access provider, reported sales of only 196.4 million Philippine Pesos (US$3.6 million) and 70 employees in 2021.