By Beting Laygo Dolor | Contributing Editor
Even with Globe Telecom announcing its launch of 5G (fifth generation) network service this year, the country’s biggest telecom company PLDT/Smart has opted not to follow suit, instead going for a launch in early 2020.
In a media briefing last week, PLDT/Smart Chairman and CEO Manuel Pangilinan said their 5G launch originally slated for this year will not take place. “But certainly sometime early next year,” he said.
PLDT/Smart has yet to determine the standards by which 5G will operate, according to Pangilinan.
Furthermore, they have yet to finalize deals contracts with suppliers of 5G hardware. “Over the next few months, we will determine which vendor we’ll choose for 5G,” he said.
The delayed launch of the latest network service gives PLDT/Smart’s main competitor Globe Telecom a head start in delivering to Filipino consumers the much-awaited 5G, which delivers speeds far superior to the current 4G now in use in the Philippines.
Where 4G delivers an average speed of 10 Mbps, 5G offers speeds of up to 50 Mbps.
Although PLDT/Smart and Globe Telecom have been engaged in a fierce competition for market dominance, the two telcos are generally perceived to be a duopoly. This has resulted in the Philippines lagging behind its neighbors in the region where internet service is concerned.
The two, however, will be facing a third competitor after Dito Telecommunity (formerly known as Mislatel, or the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co.) received a Congressional franchise to operate nationwide. Like PLDT/Smart, the new player originally planned to launch its services by the last quarter of this year but reset their launch to the first quarter of next year.
Dito Telecommunity spokesman Adel Tamano said that their own 5G service will come at a later date as they will only be offering 4G LTE (long term evolution), the same type of service offered by the other two telcos, when they launch.
Because Dito Telecommunity will essentially be offering a service that is expected to soon become obsolete, industry observers said the new player will very likely offer an advantage of substantially lower prices for both pre-paid and post-paid services.
Pangilinan said last month that their search for a technology partner had been limited to five companies, namely Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. (both of China), Ericsson Inc. of Sweden, Nokia Corp. of Finland, and Cisco Systems Inc. of the US.
Also last month, Globe Telecom launched its home service in three pilot areas.
As far as PLDT/Smart is concerned, however, the early 5G launch of their primary rival will not affect their market dominance.
Globe Telecom earned a net income of PHP18.4 billion in 2018 compared to PLDT/Smart which made PHP26.2 billion for the same period.
The bigger telco will also be employing a slightly different marketing tack than its competitor. Where Globe Telecom will straight-up target individual as well as corporate consumers for its 5G services, PLDT/Smart is pilot-testing several “use cases” for the next generation network.
According to PLDT/Smart Senior Vice-president Jovy Hernandez, “What we’ve noticed when we go around the world, majority of the time, we see a lot of show cases rather than use cases.”
By forming what they call their 5G Alliance, PLDT/Smart will work with their partners “to really develop 5G solutions that can be used in the local setting,” Hernandez said.
That alliance is comprised of the Araneta Center, Ateneo de Manila University, Clark Development Corp., Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Microsoft, Nokia, Palo Alto and SMS Global Technologies.
An industry expert recently projected that an estimated 40 percent of the current business of PLDT/Smart can be affected by the entry of third player Dito Telecommunity.