Telcos keeping people together during the maelstrom

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    telecommunications towers

    This new norm for doing everyday things has put pressure on telecommunications companies to improve internet speeds and expand the coverage of both mobile and fixed line service in key cities and provinces in the country toaddress the rising demand for connectivity.

    Indeed, telecommunication firms are at the center of this storm and are relied on to hold us all together, to connect us, and allow us to do a hundred different things in our locked down life in the time of this pandemic.

    Since the COVID-19 struck a year ago, people have been relying on, and at times heavily demanding for, stable internet connection at home to be able to work, study, operate a business, and even do some errands such as buying goods, sending money and paying bills. And to amuse ourselves in social media and keep sane during quarantine.

    This new norm of doing everyday things has put pressure on telecommunications companies to improve internet speeds and expand the coverage of both mobile and fixed line service in key cities and provinces in the country to address the rising demand for connectivity.

    Four telecom players PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom Inc., new telecom player Dito Telecommunity Corp. and Converge ICT Solutions Inc. have earmarked over P200 billion in combined capital expenditures in 2021, bulk of which will finance the expansion of their fiber footprint and ramp up the rollout of fourth generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) network and further expand fifth generation (5G) technology.

    The higher investment will also support the President Duterte’s call to improve the services of telecom firms.

    Higher capex

    PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. have increased capex this year by 31 percent to P92 billion from P70 billion last year to support their network expansion,
    “With the surge in demand for data, we are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion (this year) to meet the requirements of all our mobile and fixed line customers.

    Providing good customer experience remains to be our ‘North Star’, as we aim to elevate PLDT and Smart to the level of global operators,” said Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and chief executive officer (CEO).

    Globe also raised its capex by 44 percent to 72 billion this year from P50 billion last year fund the massive network improvement as competition intensifies.

    Globe will ramp up investment to put up more than 2.5 times fiber to homes and over 2,000 new cell sites this year.

    “This year we are doing a record amount of investment on capex to upgrade our network, build more cell sites and accelerate fiber rollouts to homes. We are using the most advanced technologies like 5G to provide our customers with a #FirstWorldNetwork experience,” said Ernest Cu Globe president and CEO .

    New telecom player DITO spent more than P100 billion last year and is on track to spend P27 billion f this year as part of its committed budget of P257 billion over a five-year period to finance network expansion and deliver its promised minimum internet speed of 27 megabits per second (mbps), on its commercial launch in March.

    Fiber internet service provider, Converge ICT has allocated P33 billion for capex for the remainder of 2020 and up to 2021, to complete its primary nationwide backbone loop, which will connect Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, by the end of 2021.

    Competition

    The competition is expected to intensify this year specially on the home broadband space, with the commercial launch of new telecom player, DITO with a promise to offer minimum internet speed of 27 mbps on 37 percent coverage areas.

    Competition will benefit subscribers with faster internet connections at much cheaper rate, according to National Telecommunication Commission (NTC).

    PLDT envisions the biggest percentage of increase in revenues would come from the home broadband market.

    “There is going to be a big push in the home broadband while wireless we expect to grow, even in the enterprise, despite the impact of the pandemic on the enterprise sector of our economy. They grew this year by three per cent and by 2021 they should grow by a percentage higher,” said Manuel Pangilinan, PLDT chairman and CEO.

    Cu had earlier said there will be intense competition in the broadband segment,likening it to a race of who can deploy much quicker, and who can provide right service to the public.

    “There will be an intense competition at home, we’ve seen that in the past it will be very intense in 2021,” Cu had said.

    Internet speed improves

    The Philippines’ internet speeds have improved between 2017 and 2020, according to Ookla’s recent report.

    Based on the results of more than 120 million tests taken with Speedtest in the Philippines in 2020, average mobile speeds have increased by 62 percent and fixed broadband speeds have increased by 86 percent between 2017 and 2020.

    Fixed broadband average download speeds in the Philippines improved from 14.36 Mbps to 26.69 Mbps between 2017 and 2020, an increase of 86 percent while mobile broadband average download speeds increased by 62 percent from 9.68 Mbps to 15.72 Mbps over the same period.

    At no other time in recent history has the vital role of telecommunication services been more heightened than this time of the pandemic. People have been distanced from one another and from work, businesses have gained or lost tenfold, communities have been disturbed. But thanks to telecommunication services, people and entities have remained connected. The industry is thriving in its essential role in economic recovery and development. The signal is strong for better days ahead.