Posts filed under ‘Philippines’
Southeast Asia’s largest telecommunications group, Singapore Telecom (SingTel), today reported that its aggregate regional mobile subscriber base stood at 232 million as at 31 December 2008, up 7.3% on a quarterly basis, and a 35% increase year-on-year. Despite stiff competition and the deepening global economic gloom, SingTel reported that each of its six mobile associates in the region – Thailand’s Advanced Info Service (AIS), India’s Bharti Airtel, Globe Telecom in the Philippines, Indonesia’s Telkomsel, Pacific Bangladesh Telecom (PBTL) and Pakistan’s Warid Telecom – posted double-digit subscriber growth ranging from 13% to 55% when compared to the same time at end-2007. Of these, India’s Bharti posted the single biggest jump in subscriber numbers to 85.65 million, up from 55.16 million as at 31 December 2007, SingTel said. The group’s wholly owned Ozzie unit Optus posted a 0.9% rise in mobile users over the year to 7.63 million, while in its home market SingTel had 2.94 million cellular customers, up 26% y-o-y. The Singaporean business also reported sustained demand for the Apple iPhone 3G device which helped push its domestic 3G mobile base up to 1.14 million, and 2.33 million for Optus in Australia.
Filipino mobile operator Smart Communications, a unit of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), has awarded ECI Telecom a two-year managed services contract for the operator’s transmission network operations centre, including 24/7 network surveillance, fault management and maintenance. By 31 December 2008 Smart Communications and its sister company Piltel claimed a total of 35.2 million cellular users, up more than five million year-on-year.
The telecoms regulator in the Philippines, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), is considering plans to recall frequencies that are currently not being used by telecoms companies. In a thinly-veiled warning to telcos, the watchdog said it had completed an audit of existing spectrum allocations in the country and was issuing separate orders to Smart Communications, Bell Telecom, Textron Corp., Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Philippine Communications Satellite Corp (Philcomsat) and EasyCall Communications Philippines, asking them to explain why their assigned frequencies should not be recalled for non-usage. Local newspaper the Business Mirror reports that Smart, for example, was assigned bandwidth in the 279MHz-281MHz band in October 1996, but had failed to use it. BellTel’s assigned frequency within the 1710MHz-1720MHz and 1805MHz-1815MHz bands have also been earmarked, after the NTC concluded it has not been using the bandwidth since it was awarded it on 24 September 1998. Further orders have been issued to Textron Corp, which is owned by the Delgado family who used to own Isla Communications. Textron was assigned a frequency within the 3400MHz-3600MHz band in January 2001, but is not operating in this bandwidth. Similarly, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is not using the 279MHz-281MHz bandwidth it was assigned in October 1996, and the frequencies of Philcomsat (3400MHz-3600MHz) and EasyCall (1710MHz-1720MHz/1805MHz-1815MHz) are also in danger of being revoked.
The Philippines’ second largest telecoms group by subscribers, Globe Telecom, a subsidiary of Philippine conglomerate Ayala Corp and Singapore Telecom (SingTel), recorded its highest quarterly revenue performance in the three months ended 31 December 2008, with service revenues of PHP16.3 billion (USD343.3 million), up 5% quarter-on-quarter and surpassing the previous record of PHP16.1 billion – booked in the fourth quarter of 2007. The operator said the strong quarterly performance was driven by strong holiday demand and the positive impact of new mobile and broadband offers it launched in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, Globe’s full-year net income for 2008 was PHP11.28 billion, down 15% from PHP13.28 billion a year earlier, on twelve-month service revenues of PHP62.89 billion (PHP63.21 billion in 2007) and EBITDA of PHP37.40 billion (PHP40.22 billion).
In the three months to 31 December 2008 Globe Telecom maintained its momentum in terms of wireless subscriber acquisitions by adding one million SIMs, to end the year with a total subscriber base of 24.7 million, up 22% from a year ago. The company said its mass market brand, TM, led the growth, accounting for 70% of the total 4.4 million net additions recorded in 2008, bringing in more than three million new TM users. In addition, Globe said the popularity of its broadband services, and in particular wireless broadband, continued apace. The operator added a net 55,000 users in the fourth quarter – more than the total for the previous three quarters combined – to close out 2008 with a broadband subscriber base of 234,000, almost double the end-2007 figure. The continued expansion of broadband and corporate data services helped offset a slowdown in wireless revenues which declined by 1% to PHP55.6 billion from the previous year’s PHP56.4 billion, while wireline revenues improved by 7% to PHP7.3 billion from PHP6.8 billion in 2007.
Filipino operator Express Telecommunication Company is reportedly planning to resurrect its cellular business by asking the telecoms regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for additional frequencies to service its proposed re-launch. The debt-laden operator has approached the NTC notifying it of its intention to pursue 10MHz of frequency spectrum in the 1900MHz band. Local newspaper BusinessMirror reports that while Express Telecom’s request had not yet been acted upon, the head of the NTC’s frequency management division Priscila Demition said the petition is pending. ‘I think they will use the frequencies to help them in their planned comeback. Their request is for cellular use,’ she told the paper.
Meanwhile, NTC director Edgardo Cabarios has confirmed that Express Telecom can apply for additional frequencies even though it has not been fully active in the domestic cellular market for ‘some years’ now due to its financial problems. ‘Anyone can apply but acting on an application is another issue. Even if they are under rehab, they can file with the commission for an application of their choice,’ Cabarios is quoted as saying. Express Telecom still owns and operates an analogue AMPS network using 10MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz band. It was awarded an additional 5MHz in the 1800MHz band in September 2001 but is largely inactive with just several thousand subscribers registered. Express Telecom’s existing frequencies are thought to be very much sought after because these can be used for 3G services. A number of other Filipino 3G players, including Globe Telecom, Smart Communications and its subsidiary Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise (CURE), have already expressed interest in taking Express Telecom’s unused frequencies.
Express Telecom’s spectrum holdings have meant that it is an attractive prospect for buyers; the firm is currently in the process of being acquired by San Miguel Corp, even though it is currently buried under PHP9 billion (USD189.5 million) worth of debt.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) is looking to add a net three to four million new mobile subscribers in 2009, well below the target set for 2008, the company’s chairman Manuel Pangilinan said last Friday as quoted by Dow Jones Newswires. ‘We still expect growth, although it will be difficult to match the additions we made in 2008,’ the PLDT man told reporters at a forum. By 31 December 2008 PLDT, through its Smart Communications and Piltel mobile units, counted a total of 35.2 million cellular users, up more than five million year-on-year. This year, Pangilinan says his company is ‘determined to improve core profit,’ and to achieve this, is hoping to see sustained pick-up in subscribers and a drop in corporate income tax to 30% from 35%.
Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel), a unit of mobile operator Smart Communications which is itself owned by Filipino powerhouse Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), is mulling plans to enter the highly competitive domestic 3G market. Piltel has reportedly sent a letter to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), stating its interest in securing the fifth and final 3G frequency bandwidth. The NTC has reserved bands 1965MHz-1975MHz, 2155MHz-2165MHz and 1890MHz-1900MHz/1970MHz-1980MHz and Piltel is keen to use this spectrum to roll out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology in the medium term. ‘Piltel will adapt the LTE technology to upgrade its existing network capacity and capabilities to enable the delivery of richer and more compelling services,’ said Piltel regulatory and telecom industry relations head Roy Ibay. LTE Release 1 operates in the 1920MHz-1980MHz/2110MHz-2170MHz, which coincides with the remaining 3G frequency band available, he added.