Telecoms Tell Us What You Think

Down to the wire

Philippines telecommunications

No surprises; but the Philippines is continuing to trail much of the developed and developing world with the paucity of its telecommunications provisions. According to a just-released survey – The State of LTE November 2017, conducted by wireless-mapping specialist, OpenSignal – the Philippines is wireless-less compared to much of the planet.

So when is this going to end? The Philippines is being left in the electronic Stone Age – and that’s affecting everything from investment to business generally; from education to tourism; from simple telephonic communication to home entertainment. Fast and reliable Internet access isn’t a luxury anymore; it’s now a necessity of life.

We’re breaking with tradition for this weekend’s Your Forum; we’re not going to ask a question – we’re gong to throw this wide open. Let us know your views on this deplorable state of affairs. Let’s know how you’d like it fixed. Here’s a little background to get you in the mood.

In September, Rodolfo Salalima, resigned his post as secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) – apparently, for personal and work-related reasons. We won’t go into any of that, other than to say it was a very odd appointment in the first place, given that he was a former chief legal council and senior adviser of Globe Telecom which along with PLDT holds the duopoly on telecommunications in the Philippines. Somewhere down the road, conflict of interest was always going to be an issue.

The point is, though, Salalima had held that position for 15 months – but, frankly, it’s hard to know what he was doing for all that time. The DICT is responsible for planning, developing and promoting the country’s ICT to spur national development. But for those 15 months there was no tangible improvement as far as the vast majority of the public is concerned.

Connectivity didn’t get anymore reliable; costs – the highest in Asia – certainly didn’t come down. In 2016, monthly Internet access costs in the Philippines averaged around US$18.19 per megabyte per second, compared to a global average of US$5.21.

Last July, House of Representatives member, Luis Campos Jr., filed a Bill that would compel telecom-service providers to improve services, “under pain of heavy fines”. He claims that the initiative is in line with the United Nations Human Rights Council view that Internet access is a right of all people. That was four months ago; we’ve not heard anymore about it since.

So rhetoric, promises, guarantees, blueprints and master plans aside – we believe the Filipino populace has had quite enough of all that – precisely when is this country going to get wireless networks that are usable, speedy and affordable?

Let’s clear up the technical terms first. LTE stands for long term evolution, a global standard for high-speed wireless communications via mobile devices and data terminals. It’s commonly marketed as 4G LTE. 4G is an abbreviation for the fourth-generation of broadband cellular technology.

For The State of LTE November 2017, OpenSignal tested 77 countries world wide; among these were six of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Here’s how the Philippines performed within that peer group.

For LTE availability the Philippines came last: Here are the global rankings for the Asean countries: Singapore, 9th; Thailand, 30th; Indonesia, 39th; Malaysia, 40th; Cambodia 51st; Philippines, 69th.

For 4G speed, the Philippines again trailed the six Asean states surveyed. Singapore, 1st; Malaysia, 60th; Cambodia 68th; Thailand, 72nd; Indonesia, 73rd; Philippines, 74th.

Those results are beyond embarrassing; they’re scandalous. We know that this situation is yet another legacy problem which Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte inherited; we also know it’s a situation he’s extremely frustrated about.

Certainly, Duterte has a tremendous amount on his plate with the ongoing campaign to eradicate illegal drugs from society; to defeat Islamic terrorism in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao; to negotiate a peace settlement with communist rebels; to get reform measures passed by Congress which will propel his socio-economic agenda and reduce that other huge legacy problem, poverty.

And all that and more while having to fend off attacks and allegations from determined political opponents – remnants of the last administration who did precious little to address any of these issues meaningfully. But, despite all that, ICT has to be prioritised more.

In the 2016 National Budget, the DICT was allocated PHP44.29 billion. How much new ICT infrastructure did that buy and where is it? What exactly did the people get for that?

Smart cities – as Clark Green City in Pampanga is aspiring to be – need to set their sights on Narrowband (5G), now being rolled out across parts of eight European countries. In fact, without it those cities can’t be smart. Fast, reliable – in other words, stable – Internet connection makes it possible for surgeons in one country to perform operations in another by means of an online robot. All this, of course, is light years away from where the Philippines is today

Consumers and businesses, tourists and students, however, aren’t expecting anything like that. All they require is an efficient, value-for-money, wireless network connection that will get them online when they want and where they want. In the second half of the second decade of the third millennium is that too much to ask?

Well apparently it is – 4G is practically unavailable outside Manila. The rest of the country functions – if that’s the right word – on 3G. And even that’s not guaranteed – even when it is! We’ve heard of packages, for example, with promised unlimited connection – unlimited that is until an undisclosed 800-megabyte ceiling is reached when access is automatically downgraded to 2G.

The point is, as long as the Globe/PLDT duopoly continues, and serious telecom competition is kept out of the market, the Netizens of the Philippines have little hope of getting online quickly and cheaply.

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  • I have lost a lot of money due to daily break downs of PLDT. I would not dare to add on all the business interruptions and financial losses PLDT is causing to this country. In the USA this would no doubt become one of the biggest class actions in history for loss of business. Here all you get, if at all, is a negliable small discount. That is the true reality here.

    • PLDT will just compromise the customers with their never ending promise for a better service! and when bills are overdue pldt get our lines disconnected right away. what can you expect of businesses run by conflict of interest?

    • Blame it on the oligarchs who owns these utility & telco companies who complain of systems losses and they have to charge it to their subscribers. All they think is profit & so many add on charges complicating their billings. Ordinary people have to contend with all these figures & do they really figure out those rates. If only water, electricity & telco companies can lower their monthly charges perhaps it will be something for investors & end users to feel unburdened of the high rates. Telcos are making money because if not they should have folded up long ago.

  • No competition on telecommunication in the Philippines. All these companies are all in one just for profit. Please bring in competetent providers to defeat monopoly in the country

  • Singapore top 10 sa speed buong mundo using TELSTRA. Wala kasing mga kumpetensiya sa bilis ang exhisting telecommunication natin kaya ginagawa ang kanilang gusto gaya rin ng meralco at nawasa.

  • How they fool us, the consumers here, is d phrase “up to”, such as up to 3Mbps or up to 5Mbps, etc. And notice that these TelCos has no guarantees as they know they cannot deliver.

    • Yes, there’s that phrase “up to” which also applies to discounts. The sign at Savemore says 20 percent discount, but when I checked out, the cashier would only give me ten percent discount. When I insisted on twenty percent discount, she said that the discount is only “up to ten percent.” Naturally, I did not proceed with buying the item. The next day, they took the offending sign.

  • Once again, the key concept that reflects the objective reason why the Philippines is perennialy stuck in the Stone Age of telecommunication and connectivity is UNBRIDLED GREED of TELCO owners who, as usuals, are the elite and oligarchs.

    These high-end leches maintain a profile perceived by society as indispensable to its sustained growth and development. What I mean is, because the owners of these telcos present themselves as firs-caliber social agents that work for the attainment of common good, they have become untouchable. But actually their social visibility as common good crusaders is a mere clever camouflage for their true greedy intentions. For example, MVP, the top man of PDLT, is acknowledged as the Philippine Sports’ premier godfather. But this admirable sponsorship is only a very convenient and quasi-legitimate way of circumventing to pay huge taxes for its gigantic businesses.

    Salamima knew this pretty well, he being the erthswhile legal honcho for Globe Telecom. That’s why, his pisition as the secretary of DICT for 15 months until his resignation was so compromised as to render him completely paralyzed to make decision in favor of the Filipino connectivity consumers.

    How will this vicious cycle be broken?

    Unless human greed is smashed for good, the Filipinos will continue to suffer in terms of being served an extremely primitive level of telecommunication and connectivity services.

    And for all we care, telco owners never give a shit to whether or not they fulfill their social corporate responsibility for as long as their profit raking remains uninterrupted.

    Methinks, these vultures wearing decent corporate attire are worse than the terrorists.

  • Filipinos have been shortchanged by the duopoly of PLDT/Smart and Globe for so long a time because of past government inaction. A clear case of oligarch influence at work when there’s no political will to serve the best interests of the populace.
    Let’s hope that the Duterte administration can find time and space to find a solution despite of the unending distractions from selfish interests.

  • Those Internet Providers should pay for the damages incurred to businesses loss of probable income bcoz of slow/loss internet connections and by not giving the right internet speed as specified in their contracts…that’s theft/breach of contract agreement by the IP providers!

  • Panahon na pra papasukin naman ang ibang tel. Comp. Na galing sa ibang bansa,bawasan ang mga requirements sa pagtatayo ng mga cellsite at kasuhan ang mga tumatangging magpatayo sa mga exclusive subdivision,at last educate the nation,sa kahalagahan ng I.T sa pinas

  • You’ll notice EXCELLENT internet services during areas that the ASEAN delegates visit. Cant have international media embarrassing the philippines oligarchy. But when they leave… Back to substandard performance. I was with the APEC conference here in Pasay im 2015. Blazing fast internet including data. Yet when they left…. Slow again.
    They CAN provide good service, but won’t. It’s not profitable.

  • When I received the bill from PLDT this month I will tear it up and wipe my butt with it. They are full of shit anyway. They can cut my service off I dont really give a damn anymore. Let us boycott evil company !

  • Having read the Volatilian for a few months now – for the purpose of being better informed about the affairs of the Philippines, I have come to the conclusion you should drop the slogan “Tell us what you think”. Because if what I think isn’t exactly what the Volatilian thinks you don’t want to know about it.

    • Orlando, Love Davao City. I wake up every morning, turn on CNN on the tv to see the latest mass shooting in America. No, I prefer Davao, thank you, and your President, too.

    • Thank you sir for your observation. I love Davao City too not only because my wife is from Davao City. Normally, we spend the holidays or summer vacation in Davao City with the relatives of my wife. May God bless you and keep you and your family.

    • We do want to know about it, Noah. Your views are as welcome as anyone else’s. “Your Forum” literally means that; it’s your place to have your say. We’re not going to stop you; it’s your right to free expression. So go ahead anytime; you’re welcome to contribute like anyone else.

  • There is a drama.enveloping the communication networks in the country. The networks seems to be at war with each other discrediting one and attacking the other and vice-versa. Parang moro-moro. Actually nothing is being done to improve, upgrade or level-up their services. Ang daming promo ang isinusulong karamihan palpak naman. And the government is wanting in checking or curbing these problem. The result is that the country is far behind. Jack Ma has correctly diagnosed our communication situation. Sino ba ang makakapagbigay ng tama, effective, efficient solution sa problemang ito?

  • Big Oligarch phil.telcos, hi-jack our Law’s in advance to provide longterm monopoly on this country and make’s filipino’s to be fool’ and ROB trillions of money from us.. and declaring LOSSES just to avoid exact TAXES that is due to government cofer’s.. Look at LUCIO TAN as an example! and what about the Rest.. do you think they are clean?? i remember Mr. Pangilinan says, “You know nothing about our business- get out on our WAY”,, aba’y siga talaga ang GAGO.. buti na nalang at hindi na pa bluff c president Digong,, sinupal pal sya na “LANGAW KA LANG” na naka patong sa likod ng kalabaw (singaporean-billionair investor) tamimi si kolokoy!

  • your last paragraph says it all. breaking that duopoly is key to the internet problems. in a country lorded over by oligarchs, globe/pldt are 2 of them, it is next to impossible to break it. maybe a revolutionary govt. can do it.

  • The state of our internet speed is dismall and more apalling is the fact that hardly anything was done to address it. It took decades to pass the law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the Philippine Competition Commission. Wonder how long it will take for such agencies to actually work.

  • Monopoly is the name of the game. This business is controlled by elite sunamagun. Duterte must now realised his move to let other compitators eneter this business once and for all.!!!

  • The ball is in the hands of lawmakers. They can move for the amendment of restrictive provisions in the Constitution or pass laws to have a level playing field for TELCOS, local and foreign.

  • These local telecoms have made fools of us all. They have successfully circumvented the constitutional proscription against foreigners owning these telecoms. Look at what we have. Smart that is controlled by a Salim dummy named MVP and Globe that is manned by the Americaners and Spanish Insulares and peninsulares what have you. Even worse, they seek protection from this constitutional prohibition to keep away foreign players from coming in. All in the name of insatiable greed.

  • I am a retired US university professor with a Ph.D. and have lived in the Philippines for four years. I sometimes work as a reviewer for textbook publishers and am also interested in teaching English online. PLDT goes offline pretty much everyday without warning and often all day, yet there is never a reduction or apology on the bill. The lack of dependable service makes working with international publishers difficult and teaching English online impossible. The international postal system is equally bad.

    This prehistoric situation needs to be corrected. I would like to earn more money to spend in this country, please make it possible!!

  • These two giant telcos just keep on assuring the netizens to improve its facilities few years back. But it becomes poorer and poorer. If reprimanded, they have many alibis, particulaly here in mindanao, cell sites were bombed by terrorists, underground cable was being repaired, etc. Endless alibis!

  • You saved me time to research, Volatilian. “Addressing protectionist practices, meanwhile, needs Congress to get better engaged. It also needs greater involvement by the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) – after all, this body was founded with the express objectives of implementing the Philippine Competition Act and promoting economic efficiency. Since its formation 21 month ago, however, the PCC appears to have made little headway in either direction.”