News Analysis Telecoms

Big actors waiting in the wings

Global telecom giants would relish the opportunity of stamping their footprint on the Philippines. And if there isn’t a fairly swift improvement in the services presently being provided by the telco tag team of PLDT and Globe Telecom, they might just get that chance.

Ready to get into the ring is BT Global Services (BTGS), a division of UK operator and multinational telecom-services company, the BT Group, which wants to build out its presence in Southeast Asia. Its regional headquarters are in Singapore with country offices in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila.

Its Philippine network presence, however, is tiny, centred mostly on its partnership with the National Capital Region Police Office (formerly Metrocom) and a general point of presence (or, GPoP) for Internet access.

BTGS, which supplies IT and communications services to more than 10,000 corporations and governments worldwide, started its push into Southeast Asia in the early 2000s and employs more than 1,000 staff in the region.

It operates a global IP exchange in Singapore where it also has a 32,100 square foot Tier 3 data centre suite. The company has lifted its regional profile with a number of accolades, including: four times winner of Telecom Asia’s Best Managed Services Provider award, and 2014 winner of Best International Wholesale Carrier. American IT research and advisory provider, Gartner, continually recognises BTGS as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Network Services.

Telecom services are huge business – global spending last year topped US$2.45 trillion – and the Philippine market is ripe for expansion. Not surprisingly, BT is not the only multinational to be casting an eye over the Philippines.

Australia’s biggest provider, Telstra, as reported – Closed channel – attempted a US$1 billon tie-up with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) which fizzled out in May. But at least one of South Korea’s Big 3 telcos – SK Telecom, LG, or Korea Telecom – has expressed an interest with the government to enter the market and is prepared to make a big investment to do so.

Norwegian multinational telecommunications company, the Telenor Group – one of the world’s largest mobile providers – which has been robustly promoting its Asian credentials through well-established operations in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Thailand, is keen to get a foothold on the Philippines. Telenor was one of number of foreign telcos that had discussed JV prospects with SMC, prior to the Telstra deal.

Meanwhile some big foreign players already have a presence in the existing market. Japan’s NTT Communications Corp, and NTT DocoMo – subsidiaries of NTT Telegraph and Telephone Corp., the world’s third largest telecom firm –  hold 20% of PLDT stock. Singapore Telecommunications (or, SingTel), a subsidiary of Singapore’s state investment fund, Temasek Holdings, has a 47% stake in Globe Telecom.

UK firms seem particularly drawn to the Philippines. Last October, 11 of them visited the country as part of a trade mission sponsored by the British Embassy Manila. They were: Argosy Broadcast Asia; Brandwatch; British Telecoms Global Services; Cambridge Broadband Network; Case Communications; Electronic Media Services; Infobip; Television Systems Limited; Television Versioning & Translation (TVT) Ltd; The Bridge 8 Limited, and TSL Professional Products Ltd.

In all this one thing is for sure, if PLDT and Globe are not prepared to inject sufficient resources to get the sector up to scratch, there’s going to be no shortage of firms, large and small, ready to take up the slack.

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