Saturday, July 02, 2005

RP not ready for 3G — telcos

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes The Philippine Star

Leading mobile phone firms Smart Communications and its subsidiary Pilipino Telephone Inc. (Piltel) maintained yesterday that the Philippines is not yet ready for 3G or the third generation of mobile communications technology.

At the same time, the companies warned the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) against certain suppliers who are pushing for the technology’s introduction to benefit their own interests.

During a public hearing on the proposed NTC rules on the allocation and assignment of 3G radio frequency bands, Smart group legal affairs chief Rogelio Quevedo emphasized that while it may be true that the number of 3G subscribers worldwide already runs into hundreds of millions, there is yet no company or operator that has registered a profit on 3G.

"The Philippines cannot afford to spend on a technology that is not yet mature. While it is already being deployed in Europe, we are not as rich as Europe," he said.

Quevedo noted that there are no 3G handsets available that are lower than $300, pointing out that Smart and Piltel were able to increase their subscriber base to 20 million largely due to hand-me-down mobile phones which are still used mostly for text messaging.

At present, he said the most sellable applications on 3G are video sex, gambling, and sports. "But I doubt it whether Filipinos are ready to watch PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) games on their handsets," Quevedo stressed.

Smart’s chief counsel likewise emphasized that when the company went into analog technology (first generation technology), the latter was already a matured technology. Smart likewise shifted to GSM (second generation or 2G) sometime in 1998-1999 when the market was already ready for it.

"We believe that 3G will mature in two or three years and that the market may be ready for it in six months to one year. But right now, we think that we should not be spending our funds on a technology that has not proven itself to be viable," he said.

Quevedo also accused Qualcomm, which he said currently holds all the licenses to the 3G technology, of trying to influence regulatory agencies such as the NTC to allow the introduction of the technology.

He likewise questioned the reallocation by the NTC of certain frequencies held by Piltel for possible 3G use, saying that these are still being used by the company.

But Shawn Covell, Qualcomm International’s director for government relations in Southeast Asia, said the time is right for 3G in the Philippines.

She said that as of end-May this year, there are 184 million recorded 3G subscribers worldwide, stressing that the Asia Pacific region is expected to generate one of the highest growth rates.

Covell likewise revealed that as of June this year, there are already 152 commercial 3G operators in 68 countries worldwide.

She added that 3G is not only about pictures or enhanced data capabilities, but also means low-cost voice services.

For his part, Globe Telecom senior vice president Rodolfo Salalima noted that the requirement in the proposed 3G rules that 3G operators adopt a five-year roll-out plan to cover at least 80 percent of the provincial capital towns/cities and chartered cities may be too ambitious. "The NTC should rethink the 80 percent coverage requirement because it might affect the use of 2G (GSM) facilities," he emphasized.

He also proposed that the requirement on number portability be addressed on a separate occasion since this obligation would unduly burden the operators.

1 comment:

Brandon Teoh said...

3G is coming for real in Malaysia, and I can't really believe it now because I am just not yet ready for it. I got a a Nokia 6610 for two years now and I haven't really even try on many of its features. Now am I suppose to ditch that (a very reliable phone) and move on with the technology bandwagon ?

urg... this is really irritating sometimes.

Anyway, Maxis is taking the lead.

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