The Philippines National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has been trying–so far without success–to encourage a third mobile operator to enter the market, something regulators in Japan and South Korea also have found difficult.
San Miguel Corporation had wanted to do so, but eventually gave up and sold its spectrum to the two existing providers, PLDT and Globe.
Some might question whether there actually is room in the market, given the power of the two existing providers, the amount of spectrum available to compete, capital investment challenges and inability of the government to “force” or “enable” significant market share shifts.
The essential goal of any pro-competition policy is that market share shifts from the dominant provider to other entities, in the transition from monopoly to competition, or in this case, the shift from a stable duopoly to a competitive market.
The big question is how much competition is sustainable. In most markets with four providers, there are legitimate questions about sustainability. In most markets with just two providers, there is a sense that duopoly limits innovation and consumer benefit.
Some might argue that alternative strategies will be necessary, as fiercely-competitive mobile markets–especially in smaller nations–might not be able to sustain three competitors. The dynamics arguably are different in large nations, where additional scale is possible.
Competition not exclusively based on traditional mobile platforms is one of the possible, perhaps even likely avenues, in a growing number of markets. Use of Wi-Fi, hotspot networks, unlicensed spectrum, more support for localized ownership, new forms of backhaul and access can be parts of such solutions.
Those paths will not necessarily be easy, but likely will be necessary in markets where the objective is to spur more competition in mobile markets. Among the key impediments is willingness on the part of policymakers to enable more freedom: of spectrum use, of local ownership and operation of networks, of investment incentives. That will not be easy, either.