The smaller players

In the Philippines, we are constantly grumbling about the state of our internet connection.

We have one of the slowest speeds in the world that we often take joy in comparing ourselves to developing nations, in the hope that our government hears our pleas. Unfortunately, we also don’t realize that slow internet speeds is not a unique problem in our country but plagues even developing nations around the world (although many will still argue that we are still worse off).

In America, slow internet speeds is one of the problems faced in rural areas. And since people often choose to live where they easily communicate with others, the lack of digital connections often render communities into ghost towns. With territories spanning millions of miles and subject to extreme temperatures, the cost of broadband is incredibly high. Providers are not willing to shell out resources for infrastructure that might only benefit so few. After all, profit is the main driving force of businesses.

Fortunately, the lack of huge players to serve this niche market is driving smaller businesses. Smaller telecom players such as Galen Manners, which comes from a small rural town in the American mid-west, are providing their own wireless networks for their communities. By beaming the connection from the closest city via a cell tower built on the highest point of their farm, Manners was able to provide stable internet connection within his farm and to his neighbors.

Businesses such as these are not uncommon in America and serve to fill the lack of digital opportunity left by the bigger players. There are thousands of small internet providers in the United States serving only a few thousand subscribers, especially in rural areas.

This is something we can emulate here. We may not need a third telco. We may, instead, opt for a few smaller players each serving a few thousand people efficiently.

Another opportunity also comes in the way of maximizing white space-–the unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum. These spaces are taken from the gaps left by television networks and can be used to deliver broadband internet. With traditional broadband, cable or fiber optics are needed to deliver internet.

With white space, a cell tower and the white space device are all you need to bring the connection to many customers.

White space has been successfully tested in Cambridge during a consortium among Microsoft, BBC, BT and Nokia. This technology can be extremely useful in rural America and even in developing countries like the Philippines. For now, Carlson Wireless and Adaptrum Inc. are investing in the commercialization of white space technology.

With the arrival of a third telco player in the Philippines, it will hopefully open the doors to more innovative technologies in our country.


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