By Beting Laygo Dolor

The PLDT/Smart and Globe Telecom duopoly is not idle as new player Mislatel enters the Philippine market later this year.

The two telcos are upgrading their systems with PLDT/Smart already testing its fifth generation (5G) network that promises faster speeds at par with the rest of Southeast Asia starting late last year, and Globe Telecom confirming that their 5G network will be launched next month.

Last week, PLDT/Smart Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) tested his company’s 5G network using his personal 5G cellphone in the presence of local media. His test run reportedly achieved speeds of 2.5 gigabits per second at 100 MHz.

When it finally launches their upgraded network, the telco will be partnering with Huawei,
Ericcson and Nokia.

This means that only the three brands will be available to subscribers of their post-paid plans unless the company can close contracts with other brands.

Principal rival Globe will also be partnering with Huawei despite warnings from the US that the Chinese company is capable of “spying” on users. Unlike PLDT/Smart with its three partner brands, however, Globe will rely solely on Huawei for starters.

During its most recent stockholders’ meeting, Globe President Ernest Cu said, “We are
launching 5G for the home in June this year.”

Globe expects to hit speeds of up to 100 Mbps.

Unlike PLDT/Smart which is eyeing a nationwide launch of its 5G network later this year, Globe is initially concentrating on Metro Manila and other highly urbanized centers such as Cebu. The Ayala-owned telco is also concentrating on home consumers as their primary market, while the MVP-controlled PLDT/Smart is gunning for both home and business users.

The fast-tracking of the upgrades of the two telcos comes at the heels of the expected launch of third player Mislatel, which has promised to deliver speeds of 27 Mbps in its first year of operations. This will then rise to 55 Mbps by its second year, or “nearly at par” with Singapore, considered as having the fastest internet connection speeds in Asia, if not the world.

This, according to Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) officer-in-charge Eliseo Rio. Rio is serving as acting DICT head while waiting for Sen. Gregorio Honasan to take over later this year.

For now, the fastest average speeds attained by both PLDT/Smart and Globe is a mere 10 Mbps, which gives the Philippines the dubious distinction of having the slowest speed in Southeast Asia.

It was the slow speed, as well as inefficient service that caused consumers to constantly
complain about the service provided by the duopoly. The service provided by the two was so bad that the Philippines was once tagged as having the second slowest internet speeds in the world, next only to Afghanistan, a war zone.

As a result, President Rodrigo Duterte promised to have a third telco off and running by last year. However, delays in awarding the franchise to Mislatel pushed back the deadline a number of times, until the Duterte administration refused to agree to further delays. As a result, Mislatel will be offering its services to the general public by the fourth quarter of this year.

Failure to do so can result in the forfeiture of its PHP14-billion performance bond.

Unlike PLDT/Smart and Globe, both of which are fully owned and funded locally, Mislatel will be a partnership between Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and China Telecom. Uy is an old friend of Mr. Duterte and was the biggest donor to his presidential campaign in 2016.