Sun Cellular to be PLDT's unlimited service brand

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011


SUN CELLULAR will be the umbrella brand for unlimited call and text services once telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) realizes its acquisition of Digitel Telecommunications Philippines, a PLDT official said Tuesday.

Lawyer Ray Espinosa, PLDT Head of Regulatory Affairs and Policy, told the Senate committee on public services that Sun's unlimited call and text services will continue even after a "share swap" deal between PLDT and Digitel.

"Unli (Unlimited) is the service that the masses want. If you don't have Unli, the masses will not use your service," he said at a hearing on the PLDT-Digitel deal. He said the unlimited services will continue "because if (we) don't, somebody else will offer it."

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He added that PLDT's financial resources and infrastructure will extend the availability of the Unli services to Visayas and Mindanao.

Senator Joker Arroyo, who filed the resolution for hearings on the deal, had earlier raised concerns that it would mean poorer service for consumers.

"Historically, when there were just two of you (Smart and Globe), programs for the masses were not forthcoming," he said, adding that it took the entry of Digitel's Sun into the market to bring down call and text rates.

Arroyo, and committee chairman Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., said last month that the deal would give PLDT around 70 percent of the mobile phone market. The senators said the resulting duopoly between PLDT and Globe Telecom might impact the price and quality of mobile phone service.

Arroyo earlier said that the merger would need approval from Congress because it would change the nature of the franchise granted to Digitel. He said the franchise prohibits the sale of controlling interest in Digitel.

But for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, an equality clause in the franchise means the deal can push through even without the nod of Congress.

He said the clause gives Digitel the same rights that other telecommunications companies were given. He said other mergers and acquisitions were allowed in the past even without congressional approval.

He added PLDT did not buy Digitel's franchise, just a controlling interest in the company.

Espinosa, in his opening statement, said the deal was in the public interest because of "the benefits it will bring millions of Filipinos nationwide and to the country as a whole."

He explained that the deal will accelerate the penetration of mobile broadband services. He said that combining PLDT and Digitel's resources will give 95 percent of the country access to mobile broadband within three years.

Espinosa's counterpart at Globe Telecom, lawyer Rodolfo Salalima, said the deal may be legal "but precisely, a big monopoly is getting bigger and bigger."

He said that PLDT-Digitel would be "too powerful" and would give PLDT "every incentive to delay interconnection."

He said that of 31 applications for interconnection between PLDT and Globe, only one deal in Davao has pushed through.
He said that if the local government of Davao had not stepped in, interconnection would not have taken place.

Committee chairman Revilla later told the National Telecommunications Commission to help resolve interconnection issues between Globe and PLDT.

Globe also earlier complained of unfair competition since it only has one block of frequencies while PLDT, through Smart, Cure (Red Mobile), Piltel (Talk N' Text), and Digitel, will have four blocks of frequencies.

Salalima said Globe is "deeply concerned over the serious adverse effects (of the deal) on free competition and pro-consumerism."

It was found that Globe also tried to acquire Digitel but that PLDT countered by doubling what Globe offered.

"That's what they're saying now because they want to use Congress so the deal will favor them," Enrile said, followed by "No way."(Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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