Thursday, September 23, 2021

Subsidy needed to improve Internet

FOLLOWING the stern warning of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte to telcos, a PLDT official believes a subsidy is vital to help push for faster and cheaper Internet service in the country.

PLDT SME data solutions category head Marc Frederick T. Roxas explained the importance of government subsidy for communications infrastructure.

“What would be better is if the government could subsidize to help us push our infrastructure to many more locations so everyone could benefit,” said Roxas in an interview at the sidelines of a PLDT press conference in Cebu City yesterday.

“It would really entail help from government to improve our service. Since we are in an archipelago, the investment (of telcos) will be really expensive,” he added.

In the US, for instance, the government allocates funds called the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes rural telephone and broadband services.

Duterte recently told telcos to shape up or he would ease the entry of large foreign players, who are limited to a 40 percent ownership under the present setup.

Giant telcos PLDT and Globe Telecom said in separate statements that they are supporting the call for faster Internet.

“We support the call for faster Internet. In fact, Globe is at the forefront of building the much needed infrastructure nationwide to make Internet services easily accessible either through mobile or wireline. This is supported by heavy investments over the years to make sure the Philippines is at par with other countries in terms of technology use,” said Yoly Crisanto, Globe senior vice president for corporate communications.

Likewise, PLDT said it is on a major three-year network investment program.

“We are aligned with government efforts to improve telecom services. PLDT is, in fact, in the middle of a major three-year network investment program that is in the process of significantly improving telecom and Internet services for PLDT and Smart customers and will support national development initiatives,” said Ramon Isberto, PLDT head of public affairs.

For Roxas, he said that while competition is good and foreign players might join the country’s telco industry, he said new foreign entrants would also have to invest heavily in a capital-intensive venture just like the major telcos.

The Philippine Internet is dubbed as the second slowest in Asia after Afghanistan. It is also said to be one of the most expensive.

With social media being one of the most active and powerful platforms in the recent elections, Roxas said he hopes the government would see the value of information and social media to its citizens.

Roxas was in Cebu to launch PLDT’s new service for small and medium enterprises.

Through its SME arm PLDT Smart SME Nation, Roxas led officials in introducing to at least 60 businessmen in Cebu on Thursday the PLDT #MyNumber solution that allows business owners to replace their existing roster of contact numbers for different stores and/or area codes with one national hotline.

“This is an opportunity for making them (SMEs) capable and see the bigger scope,” said PLDT Smart SME Nation area sales head John Thomas Anthony Nanquil. If SMEs want to expand their business outside Cebu, Nanquil said #MyNumber will aid in providing a convenient platform for voice communications.

The PLDT #MyNumber solution simplifies any hotline system down to a simple four to eight-digit contact number that begins with the number or hash sign, such as #888.

The telco’s new service, according to Roxas, can reduce overall marketing communications costs of SMEs, as it allows fewer deployment of advertising materials for nationwide campaigns with a uniform hashtag number.

“Despite the increase of social media usage, voice communication is known to have stronger value proposition when reaching customers,” PLDT said in a statement. Roxas said this means calling remains to be the stronger means of engagement to customers.

Further, having a landline presence increases the legitimacy of one’s business, he added.

One of their biggest clients is fast food chain Jollibee.

The service was launched in Manila last May 20 with 22 companies signing up for the #MyNumber solution. The service costs P10,000 per month.

In Cebu, Nanquil said PLDT targets to attract mostly resorts, restaurants, hotels and retail brands that need to promote their brand to a bigger customer base.

Whether the customer is calling from Metro Manila or other parts of the country, all PLDT landline calls from customers to the #MyNumber hotline are free of charge, PLDT said.

Meanwhile, Smart, Talk ‘N Text, and Sun mobile subscibers can also access the PLDT #MyNumber with a lower per-minute cost for their calls compared to conventional mobile to landline rates. Call costs are covered by the company operating the hotline.

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