Sunday, February 14, 2010

Globe to put up private wireless network for poll result transmission

Philippine mobile phone companies have created private wireless networks to be used solely for the transmission of May 2010 election results. Ayala-led Globe Telecom was the first to disclose this initiative during a Congressional oversight hearing held last week to check on preparations for the Philippines’ first fully automated elections. The Philippines’ top telecommunications companies will “put up their respective private leased line network" for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and its private sector technology partner, Smartmatic-TIM, Lawyer Froilan Castelo, Globe’s head for regulatory affairs, said in an email interview. “This means that Globe shall dedicate certain exclusive communication (voice/data) lines using special SIMs [subscription identity modules] for Smartmatic-Comelec without passing through the Internet," Castelo said in an email message. This private network shall have the necessary encryptions and security safeguards to ensure seamless, secured and unhampered transfer and exchange of data within the network, Castelo said. PLDT-owned Smart Communications said it does not have a final confirmation yet if it is undertaking a similar project but company officials said putting up a private network does not entail the deployment of physical infrastructure and merely requires a rerouting or reconfiguration of its bandwidth. “Putting up a private network is not hard to do. We’re actually more concerned on the availability of the power in the remote areas where the precincts are located," a Smart executive said in an interview. Smart also said security could be the primary reason for the creation of the private networks since the existing infrastructure of telecommunication companies is more than capable of handling the amount of data that will be sent by PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines. “The election data would be very small compared to the billions of data processed by our network during the holidays," the Smart executive said. Castelo said the cost associated with the private network would be paid by Smartmatic, the contractor of the poll automation. “Smartmatic and Globe are still in discussion with respect to the compensation for this service," he said. The Globe legal counsel said the operator is currently "participating in the Technical Working Group organized by the Comelec and Smartmatic for the conduct of the 2010 elections, which includes transmission tests and mock elections." The congressional inquiry held last week was conducted after reports received by the Comelec indicated that illegal shipments of signal jammers – devices that can disrupt or drown out cellular signals – have entered the country specifically to create havoc in the coming polls. Edgardo Cabarios, head of the common carriers division of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), said the alleged entry of unusually high number of jammers has yet to be confirmed because no request for registration has reached the NTC as of this time. Any equipment that makes use of radio signals is required to be registered with the NTC. The regulatory body has already issued a directive banning the use, sale, and importation of the signal jammers. However, exemptions would still be allowed in certain cases such as in churches to prevent unnecessary disturbance from cellphones.

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