Cheaper, faster, wider, better Wi-Fi
Read with some interest the Sisyphus Lament column of lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan entitled “Can antitrust stop PLDT, Globe telco purchase?” that was published in the Inquirer last Monday and in Cebu Daily News the following day.
As someone who would rather read about the latest science technology trends and devices than those lengthy legal, Latin speckled terminology dissertation pieces, I had to take some time to digest all those legal provisions and technical terms that Tan discussed in length concerning that mega acquisition of the two telecom giants that will impact heavily on the country’s Wi-Fi future.
I read Tan’s piece from a consumer’s perspective, of one who would likely pay hundreds of pesos for a day or three days’ worth of Wi-Fi connection just to play mobile games or surf through online social media accounts and streaming video services like YouTube.
And based on the number of promotional offers from Smart, Globe and Sun, it’s likely that I’m not alone. These telecom providers especially Sun have been adjusting their offers to cater to a wider audience, specifically targeting the youth crowd.
The latest announcement from Smart Communications is their LTE-A or LTE Advanced Service that promised subscribers or those they’re inviting to become subscribers of “bigger, faster, better” download and upload speeds for their apps, streaming live videos, games and yes, those selfie photos.
But more on that later. First we talk a little about the heavy stuff, namely that the latest acquisition of PLDT, which owns Smart, and Globe Telecom is under review at the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to see if it doesn’t violate anti-trust law and it passes muster under the Philippine Competition Act.
Among the many key items included in the P70 billion joint acquisition is the 700 megahertz frequency of Vega Telecom owned by San Miguel which was on the brink of partnering with a foreign provider before talks bogged down.
Rather than engage in protracted legal disputes with Smart and Globe, San Miguel chose to sell its assets to them to the chagrin of those monitoring the negotiations and hoping that it ended up with a third party player that could challenge the two other titans’ stranglehold on the Wi-Fi market.
As in any usual bureaucratic process, the PCC review would take some time, time which PLDT warned would delay them and Globe from rolling out their “much improved” services to their loyal consumer bases.
But some top officials like outgoing Senate president Franklin Drilon and incumbent Sen. Bam Aquino aren’t too keen about the acquisition and supported the PCC review if only to ensure that the existing duopoly doesn’t further entrench itself that it can block the future entry of competing providers.
And if only for that reason, the PCC should proceed with their review. The Philippines has the unenviable distinction of having not only one of the slowest but the most expensive Wi-Fi services in the world.
There’s no iron clad guarantee that the joint acquisition and co-op arrangement between Smart and Globe of the 700 megahertz they acquired from San Miguel will result in cheaper, faster and better Internet connection or Wi-Fi services for the public.
The key words here are cheaper, accessible, quality Wi-Fi service. I talked with some tech guys who said the increased frequency would only assure both telecom giants of wider coverage in areas not accessible to them previously. Wider coverage means more customers and more profits.
At a time when households, companies, schools, government agencies and private institutions rely on mobile Internet connections and stable Wi-Fi services to send emails, hold video conferences and chat via Facebook video, Google Hangouts and Skype, we cannot only hope but lobby and even demand that these services not only be improved but also be comparable to the rest of the world.
I don’t know if the country can hope to achieve the blazingly fast 500 mbps Wi-Fi speed that South Korea is targeting or had already achieved. But I certainly hope that it would be accessible to anyone with a mobile device in hand.
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