Mobile broadband and internet data plans in the Philippines

 

With about 80 million Filipinos connected via mobile phones, many are now depending on the same gadgets to link them to the internet. 

Currently, Filipinos may choose from any of these offers from the three mobile carriers:

Smart Communications 

  • Prepaid: P10 ($0.22) for 30 minutes, P50 for 24 hours, P300 for seven days, P1,200 ($26) for 30 days
  • Postpaid: P1,200 for one month (charged on top of postpaid plan)

Globe Telecoms 

  • Prepaid: P5 for 15 minutes, P50 for 24 hours
  • Postpaid: P1,200 for one month (charged on top of postpaid plan)

Sun Cellular

  • Prepaid: P10 for 30 minutes, P50 for 24 hours
  • Postpaid: P649 for one month (charged on top of postpaid account)

Sun obviously beats Smart and Globe in providing the cheapest postpaid mobile internet. While Sun is expanding 3G coverage beyond Metro Manila, most subscribers have to contend with what Smart and Globe now offer. Both are not that affordable and are arguably very expensive.

Smart and Globe can offer cheaper internet data plans but they simply don’t. Both have P999 unlimited data plans for their SmartBro and Globe Tattoo broadband dongle services – but they both charge premium pricing for subscribers of their mobile telephony services.

Smart and Globe also have their low-end brands Talk N Text and TM, respectively, but both do not offer internet data plans at all – as if their target markets don’t want or need to use the internet. They just have to refer to the recent studies of internet habits to discover they are mistaken.

But even Sun is expensive. All of them are expensive especially if we compare how other telcos in Southeast Asia charge their subscribers for mobile broadband or unlimited data. 

On another level, the P649 to P1,200 pricing for unlimited data is worse than how telcos charges for residential fixed wireless or wireline broadband connections. That should not be the case considering the capital outlay needed to provide and maintain residential services. For mobile phones, no capital outlay is needed, sort of.

The quality of connections provided by Smart, Globe and Sun does not exactly provide subscribers a consolation. They all deceptively promise “up to 2mbps speeds” - which logically includes speeds slower than 384 kbps (GPRS/EDGE). They cannot even ensure availability and delivery of true mobile broadband speeds of at least 384 kbps. The government, through the National Telecommunications Commission, however, is either grossly ignorant or just don’t care about this.

It is an outrage that the telcos are unapologetic about service problems, deceptive billing and other consumer complaints. They don’t give a damn because they mistakenly think that the deregulation law and policy gives them a blanket license to screw the Republic and people of the Philippines. It is about time to tell them that telecommunications is not just a business but a public utility imbued with the national interest.

Smart, Globe and Sun all owe the Philippines decent mobile broadband connections at par with the rest of the region. They should sell internet data plans at speeds of at least 2mbps at a cheaper price. The other telcos in the region have done it, with subscribers picking up the tab for good service.

The telcos must also improve their so-called “customer service” practices.  

Government must not just focus on collecting value-added taxes from mobile phone users. It must use those taxes to enforce all laws against telcos that abuse the public either on their own or as a monopoly, duopoly or oligopoly. Deregulation does not mean government shouldn’t be defending the public.

Government, other businesses and citizens should press these telcos to shape up. We all suffer if the telcos don’t improve their services because telecommunications have become essential in daily life, business, and in government. We all benefit if we successfully compel the telcos to be better. 

The sun of progress will not rise in the Philippines if we are not smart enough to compel these telcos to be among the best in the globe. 

[Disclosure: The author is president of TXTPower.org Inc., a government-registered non-stock, non-profit organization that promotes the rights and welfare of mobile phone users in the Philippines against telco abuses and government neglect.]

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