Telcos adjust plans, pursue projects

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    Aggressive rollout. The DICT aims to have provided free WiFi in approximately 104,000 public sites.
    Aggressive rollout. The DICT aims to have provided free WiFi in approximately 104,000 public sites.

    BY MYLA IGLESIAS and IRMA ISIP

    Amid clamor for improved services, the country’s two telecommunication companies are pursuing projects and adjusting plans to cope with the effects, good and bad, of the new coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

    Globe cuts capex

    Globe Telecom Inc. has trimmed capital expenditure budget by 20 percent given the full impact of community quarantine restrictions in its network activities.

    Globe’s consolidated net income dropped 5 percent to P11.5 billion in the first half this year from P12 billion in the same period last year.

    Consolidated service revenues in the first half of the year was at P72.4 billion, slightly down by 1 percent from P72.9 billion a year ago. On a quarterly basis, revenues dropped by 4 percent given the full impact of enhanced community quarantine and modified ECQ to operations.

    “We expect revenues for full-year 2020 to decline by low single-digit against last year, given the impact of community quarantine restrictions, we do see growth opportunities on the home broadband front and ICT (information and communication technology) space,” Ernest Cu president and chief executive officer (CEO) said in a statement.

    Despite the challenges, Globe is confident that its effective cost management efforts, will keep earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA)  at around the 50 percent level, ensuring the sustainability of operations and services.

    Globe’s EBITDA in the first half this year stood at P38.4 billion with EBITDA margin reaching 53 percent.

    Globe has revised the capex guidance this year to P50.3 billion lower than the original guidance of P63 billion given the delays in the rollout.

    Globe invested a total of P20.9 billion in its network in the first half of the year, 10 percent higher than last year and representing 29 percent of gross service revenues and 54 percent of EBITDA. Bulk of the capex spending went to data-related requirements, comprising 76 percent of the total capex spending for the period.

    PLDT-Smart goes 5G

    PLDT Inc. and its wireless unit Smart Communication Inc. yesterday commercially launched its fifth-generation (5G) services for enterprise business clients.

    Jovy Hernandez, ePLDT president  and CEO, said the 5G plan will enable businesses to keep moving forward amid the pandemic.

    Hernandez said all Smart Infinity and Smart Postpaid subscribers will now be able to enjoy 5G in key business districts of the metro using their Smart 5G-certified devices.

    To date, these areas include Makati central business district (CBD), Bonifacio Global City, Araneta City, SM Megamall, and Mall of Asia Bay Area. Smart 5G is also currently being rolled out in other key areas such as North Avenue in Quezon City, Taft avenue in Manila, Ortigas CBD, and Clark Green City in Pampanga.

    5G technology is the next generation of wireless connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable internet connections to allow Smart Postpaid and Smart Infinity subscribers get the most from their gadgets, maximize their productivity, and level up their lifestyle.

    PLDT Enterprise is set to introduce its initial lineup of Smart 5G-certified handsets from Huawei, Samsung, RealMe and Vivo which will soon be available with its Smart 5G plans.

    For the consumer segment, PLDT also launched 5G services to postpaid subscribers under the Smart Signature plan.

    Still in the lead

    PLDT and its wireless arm Smart kept lead in fixed and wireless internet speed in the first half this year, according to Ookla, the global leader in internet testing and analysis.

    Ookla reported that PLDT achieved a Speed Score of 24.79, with top download speeds of 70.54 megabits per second (Mbps) and top upload speeds of 85.38 Mbps. The fixed network award is based on 48,404,707 customer-initiated Speedtest nationwide for the first to the second quarters of 2020.

    Meanwhile, Smart posted a Speed Score of 18.33, with average download speeds of 15.94 Mbps and average upload speeds of 7.57 Mbps, based on 2,810,963 user-initiated tests taken with Speedtest in the Philippines for the period under review.

    Speed Score is a measure that takes into account both upload and download speeds.

    Initial data included in Ookla’s country reports showed Smart still posting big leads in key areas like Quezon City, Cebu City and Makati City, for example, while PLDT is ahead in Quezon City, Cebu City and Davao City.

    In Quezon City, for example, Smart posted download speeds of 24.12 Mbps, almost double that of the competing network. For mobile, Speed Score incorporates a measure of each provider’s download and upload speed to rank network speed performance.

    Aligning processes

    The Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) yesterday met with common tower providers for a consultation that aims to gather inputs and identify ways to effectively implement the recently signed joint memorandum circular (JMC) reducing the steps in approving applications for permits.

    Among the issues discussed were the challenges of the common tower providers in securing permits at the local government unit (LGU) level and the imposition of exorbitant regulatory fees.

    The JMC  cuts the processing time from an average of eight months to approximately 16 days across different national government agencies and LGUs. ARTA also formed a special task force that will strictly enforce the compliance of government agencies.

    ARTA will conduct meetings with the League of Provinces, League of Cities, League of Municipalities, Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines later in the week.

    Expropriation unconstitutional

    Advocacy group Tagapagtanggol ng Watatawat (Defenders of the Flag) yesterday said expropriating the country’s two telecommunication companies as baseless and would violate the Constitution.

    The group said in a statement there is no compelling reason for government to resort to the drastic measure of taking over Smart and Globe.

    The group cited Article XII, Section 17 of the Constitution which provides  the State is authorized to “temporarily take over or direct the operation of any privately owned public utility or business affected with public interest” but only “in times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires.”

    “We are not aware of any emergency… even in the middle of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, we do not think it is in the interest of the public to jeopardize telecommunications services and cause unnecessary uncertainty to the people who are now forced to rely on online commerce, work-from-home setups and distance learning,” the group added.

    It said bureaucratic and regulatory issues have consistently hampered the construction of new cell sites that could have improved reception.

    “The State ought to flex its regulatory muscle and exercise all reasonable means first to enable, as well as compel, the telecommunications companies to improve their services. It should not expect recurring issues to be resolved in a snap without proper intervention and regulation. We have not seen any sufficient efforts by the government in that regard,” the group said.