World-class ser­vice

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - MARY ANN LL. REYES Bad de­ci­sions

Re­ac­tions are mixed in­so­far as re­cent de­vel­op­ments un­fold­ing in the lo­cal telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­try are con­cerned.

Just re­cently, the Mis­la­tel con­sor­tium of Davao-based busi­ness­man Den­nis Uy and state-owned China Tele­com Corp. was de­clared as the pro­vi­sional third telco player in the Philip­pines, af­ter sub­mit­ting the only com­pli­ant bid.

Many things can still hap­pen though, be­tween the time the con­tract is fi­nally awarded and the time this third telco starts op­er­a­tions. PLDT chief cor­po­rate ser­vices of­fi­cer Ray Es­pinosa has said that it may take two to three more years for the third telco to build its com­mit­ted net­work cov­er­age.

In the mean­time, the coun­try’s two lead­ing telco op­er­a­tors are do­ing ev­ery­thing within their means in terms of im­prov­ing their cov­er­age and ser­vice. So by the time Mis­la­tel comes in, it may have to work dou­ble time just to catch up.

One rea­son to re­joice though is a re­cent re­port from in­de­pen­dent mo­bile an­a­lyt­ics com­pany OpenSig­nal which said that Smart Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions’ ser­vice is now com­pa­ra­ble to that of US car­ri­ers.

The re­cent State of Mo­bile Video re­port re­vealed that Smart gath­ered a score of 42.2, com­pared to the Philip­pines’ over­all score of 34.98.

Smart’s score is even bet­ter than AT&T’s 40.88 and Sprint’s 41.1.

This is good news since a pre­vi­ous re­port from the same re­search firm re­vealed that the Philip­pines has the third slow­est over­all down­load speed out of 69 na­tions.

PLDT pres­i­dent and CEO Manuel Pangili­nan said the OpenSig­nal re­port val­i­dates not only Smart’s strat­egy, but the work put in by the en­tire com­pany to build its net­work, point­ing out that the com­pany has al­ways been aware of Filipinos’ love for video con­tent.

A re­cent re­search re­port by con­tent de­liv­ery firm Lime­light Net­works has noted that Filipinos are among the world’s most avid video con­sumers. It said view­ers in the Philip­pines watch the most on­line videos each week at eight hours and 46 min­utes, even more than In­dia and the US, where peo­ple watched close to 8.5 hours of on­line video.

Sin­ga­pore got the high­est score with 66.9, fol­lowed by Aus­tralia with 64.9, Tai­wan with 64.7, and South Korea with 62.8. The Philip­pines is at the bot­tom with a video ex­pe­ri­ence score of just 35.

While Smart got 42.21 points, ri­val Globe Tele­com made only 29.22 points.

OpenSig­nal pre­dicts that the de­ploy­ment of 5G tech­nol­ogy will play a big part in the ad­vance­ment of mo­bile video view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, say­ing there’s no ques­tion that 4G rev­o­lu­tion­ized mo­bile video, but in or­der for mo­bile video to reach its full po­ten­tial, we may need to wait for 5G.

Last June, Smart in part­ner­ship with Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Phils. Inc. reached 5G speed of over 14Gbps dur­ing a test in the PLDT-Smart 5G Tech­no­lab. Smart said that it will de­ploy 5G in the Philip­pines by the first half of 2019.

PLDT, sub­sidiary Smart, and Clark De­vel­op­ment Corp. (CDC) have also signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to launch Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) as the coun­try’s first Smart 5G City. Un­der the MoU, PLDT and Smart, to­gether with tech­nol­ogy part­ner Eric­s­son, will fire up the first 5G cell site in the city in Novem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to Smart, with its ca­pa­bil­ity to de­liver ex­tremely high speeds cou­pled with low la­tency, 5G opens up ex­cit­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for In­ter­net of Things (IoT) ap­pli­ca­tions for Filipinos, as well as smart ap­pli­ca­tions for the trans­port sec­tor, traf­fic man­age­ment, man­u­fac­tur­ing, air­port and mall op­er­a­tions, lo­gis­tics and ware­hous­ing, re­tail, cus­tomer sup­port and smart homes, among oth­ers.

Un­der its cur­rent net­work up­grade pro­gram, Smart is in­stalling 5G-com­pat­i­ble ra­dio equip­ment across its net­work, which now has over 2,000 5G-ready sites.

PLDT has com­mit­ted his­toric lev­els of re­sources for net­work trans­for­ma­tion. For 2018, PLDT capex is ex­pected to reach P58 bil­lion, which in­cludes al­lo­ca­tions for the ag­gres­sive roll-out of its fiber broad­band ser­vice, which also sup­ports the stepped-up de­ploy­ment of the mo­bile net­work by pro­vid­ing high-ca­pac­ity links for cel­lu­lar base sta­tions.

The end seems to be near­ing for util­ity firm Panay Elec­tric Co. (PECO), which for 95 years has been the sole elec­tric­ity dis­trib­u­tor in Iloilo City.

House Bill 6023, which seeks to re­new PECO’s fran­chise, is still pend­ing with the House com­mit­tee on leg­isla­tive fran­chises. PECO’s fran­chise will ex­pire next year.

Mean­while, House Bill 8132 grant­ing a con­gres­sional fran­chise to More Min­er­als Corp. over the same fran­chise area has al­ready been ap­proved by the Lower House. Sen­a­tor Grace Poe, who chairs the Se­nate com­mit­tee on pub­lic ser­vices, has ear­lier said that PECO’s fran­chise may not be re­newed in the Se­nate, as she cited mount­ing com­plaints re­gard­ing PECO’s poor ser­vice.

PECO was put up in 1923 by prom­i­nent Iloilo busi­ness­men who four years later sold the busi­ness to the ma­tri­arch of the Ca­cho clan, Dona Can­de­laria So­ri­ano Ca­cho. Lola Candi, as she was known, gave man­age­ment of the util­ity firm to her son Mar­i­ano, a civil en­gi­neer. Man­age­ment has re­mained in the hands of the Ca­chos since then.

Be­cause PECO was a monopoly, there was no in­cen­tive to im­prove its ser­vice, Iloilo City res­i­dents note, adding that the util­ity seems to have sur­vived due to its po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions.

For many years, they said that PECO re­fused to in­vest in mod­ern­iz­ing its dis­tri­bu­tion fa­cil­i­ties, re­sult­ing in un­der­sized and crowded feed­ers, lean­ing poles, dis­or­ga­nized ser­vice drops, un­safe clear­ances of lines and sub­sta­tions from veg­e­ta­tion and struc­tures, and leak­ing sub­sta­tions and trans­form­ers. Its dis­tri­bu­tion charges ap­pear to be low be­cause it has not sub­mit­ted any cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture pro­gram to the En­ergy Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion (ERC) to mod­ern­ize its fa­cil­i­ties, they added.

PECO’s crit­ics also said that the com­pany has cho­sen to in­stead con­tin­u­ously de­clare div­i­dends to its stock­hold­ers de­spite com­plaints of over­billing and bad ser­vice from Iloilo res­i­dents. First Philip­pine Hold­ings (FPH) dis­closed to the Philip­pine Stock Ex­change that PECO de­clared div­i­dends amount­ing to P41 mil­lion in 2015, P43 mil­lion in 2016 and P51 mil­lion for its 30 per­cent share­hold­ings in the Iloilo util­ity firm. By ex­trap­o­la­tion, the Ca­cho fam­ily which owns the re­main­ing 70 per­cent of PECO, would have re­ceived P95.67 mil­lion, P100 mil­lion and P119 mil­lion for the same years, as div­i­dends from PECO.

In­stead of plow­ing back money to im­prove its fa­cil­i­ties, PECO also chose to build a new P65-mil­lion head of­fice build­ing with a pri­vate el­e­va­tor and ac­com­mo­da­tions for its se­nior ex­ec­u­tives, they re­vealed.

For com­ments, e-mail at mareyes@philstar­me­dia.com

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