"It does not want to be just the third telco; it wants to be the best telco."
Mislatel (Mindanao Islamic Telephone Co.) promises to be the best telco network in the Philippines.
It is a big promise given than there is no such economic animal in the country today—given the bad service, bad network, bad internet speed, and bad and atrocious rates of the telecom duopoly of Smart/PLDT of the Manuel V. Pangilinan-Salim of Indonesia group, and Globe Telecom of Ayala and Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel)
How bad is the service? Of 69 countries studied by presidential adviser RJ Jacinto, the Philippines ranked 67th—the third slowest. In terms of price, internet cost is the second highest in Asia. Smart and Globe have only 16,000 towers to carry cellular signal (10,000 if you net out the duplications) serving a population of 107 million. Compare that with the 100,000 towers of Indonesia (a much poorer country though larger in population, 250 million).
Vietnam, which started late in the telco business, already has 50,000 towers. To reach the level of Vietnam, it will take Smart and Globe together 81 years, according to Jacinto who has a very good sense of timing, being a musician. In 2018, Globe planned only 461 cell sites; Smart 156.
Smart and Globe blame the government for their poor service. It takes 26 permits and eight months to start a cellsite or tower. Many permits are ridiculous—among them according to Senator Frank Drilon:
“You have height clearance, you have radiation evaluation study, you have the building permit, you have the memorandum of agreement with DENR-NIPAS, you have the waiver of the steward—Jesus Christ! The application for free, prior and informed consent. You will die before you get these—in other words, city or municipal resolution, occupancy permit, application for local power connection, mayor’s permit, tower fee ordinances, LGU, special use permit for each cell site, compliance with DPWH Department Order No. 73 on right of way, permit to operate generator set, registration of generator set.”
Filipinos, of course, can always dream of better things. Which is why they welcome the delayed arrival of Mislatel of Davao businessman Dennis Uy and his China Telecom partners.
As is normal for somebody trying to disrupt the monopoly and profits of a long-entrenched duopoly and using unconventional business tactics, Dennis Uy and his Mislatel have come into a firestorm of controversy, thanks to an equally entrenched political elite and an economic elite that has control of captive and influential media.
“We don’t want to be just the third telco,” Dennis Uy assured the senators at the hearing on Jan. 24, 2019. “We want to be the best telco. A telco that is fast, affordable, and most importantly, secure.”
Uy pointed to the senators his track record of over 20 years as a businessman. “I am chairman and officer of various publicly listed companies. I have complied with the very stringent standards on public disclosure by the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE),” he said. “My companies operate on the highest standards of accountability,” he assured the senators, speaking in English.
The Mislatel Consortium outlined their plans to the Grace Poe Committee on Public Services. The plan is full of jargon, even balderdash, but basically, the group is saying they will be better than either Globe or Smart because of wider coverage, faster speed, better quality service, and yes, more reasonable pricing.
“Our vision is to ‘become the most innovative integrated information services provider in Philippines, be committed to provide intelligent information services and world-class ICT technologies witcontinuous innovation’. When the network is ready, Filipinos will enjoy faster and more affordable high quality services ensuring an excellent customer experience.”
“We will initially build a high-quality 4G network and then start the evolution to 5G at an appropriate time. Based on the wireless network, Philippine consumers will get services such as voice call, text, MBB (Mobile Broad Band) and OTT content (video and gaming). Based on a high-speed and quality optical fiber broadband networks, customers will enjoy versatile services such as fixed-line IP telephony, 100-Megabit or higher-speed home internet, 4K or 8K online video
and AR gaming, etc. In addition, with sufficient submarine cable resource, we will also provide services for different types of enterprise customers, such as Enterprise IP telephony, Lease Line, Dedicated Fiber Access, Ethernet, IP-VPN and many others.”
“With the brand positioning of being ‘simple, high-value, and transparent’, we will focus on data services, and provide cost-effective 4G/5G convergence services and Fiber broadband services.”
“To guarantee the best experience, flexible business models can be customized based on the demand of our customers.”
“At the same time, differentiated measures and products will be offered to cater to both SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and large enterprises.”
“A variety of product portfolios with different combination of QoS (speed, availability, etc.) at competitive prices will significantly promote BPO, FSI, and government digitization, which will facilitate sustainable economic growth. Filipinos will greatly benefit from the national digitalization and continuous innovation brought by advanced ICT technologies carried by our world-class telecommunication networks.”
All 145 PH cities and 84 percent of the population covered in five years, with Metro Manila in the first year plus 38 other cities nationwide.
Part of Central Luzon, Calabarzon and the Ilocos region will be covered as well. Construction in Cebu and Central Visayas will also start at the end of this year.
In the fourth and fifth year, all 145 Philippine cities will be well covered with massive capacity already in place. The coverage of suburban and rural areas will be enhanced greatly.