Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Fixed-line telephones still have some things going for them. Calls are clearer and more affordable, and you don't have to look around for a signal.
This is what prompted Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) to launch a new service soon: A convergence of broadband Internet access, television, telephone and wireless service provisions.
PLDT has been under fire for slow, expensive Internet connection in the past few years. In a Senate hearing last September, the dominant telco player was pressured for causing delays in the implementation of mandatory Internet protocol (IP) peering. IP peering is when two networks exchange traffic with each other freely, providing access to their caches, bringing about a faster connection for the end users.
Last October, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) also summoned major telecommunication players to a public consultation on the minimum speed of broadband connections, after subscribers have been complaining about the slow Internet speed amid the free Internet and Facebook promos of major telco players.
PLDT said it hopes to address its consumers' worries by investing more in infrastructure that will support improved Internet speed as well as introducing new services that will deliver seamless connectivity.
"With the interface of PLDT Home and mobile to a consumer group, we have an opportunity to leverage on our capabilities in both fronts for us to deliver a seamless, digital experience – I call this home and away services," said PLDT executive vice-president Isaias Ariel Fermin. Head of PLDT Home Business, he will soon lead Smart Communications' wireless consumer division.
PLDT opened 2015 with a flat net profit growth, closing at P9.4 billion ($211 million) in the first quarter on shrinking voice and text service revenues. While traditional voice and text services still have the biggest revenue share for PLDT, these are outpacing gains made by the telco's mobile Internet and broadband businesses.
To adapt to this changing landscape, PLDT announced Tuesday key changes in the PLDT Group organization. One of these is Fermin's role expansion by assuming leadership of Smart’s wireless consumer division effective May 18.
Asked how he can help the telecommunications giant improve its bottomline, Fermin said: “For a business to be fruitful, one has to hear its consumers’ needs and act on them. What consumers need is mobility."
"Before, customers are contented if their landlines were working and call rates were affordable. But they now demand definitely more than that. This places real challenge on us to deliver interactive services," he added.
Home and away
"The marketplace has evolved... The families assume various roles in life when they step out of the home. Our task is for them to remain connected and enable them to be successful," he added.
Fermin’s mandate is to deliver what he calls "long-term health" for PLDT by delivering "seamless digital experience" through convergence.
Convergence means integrating several telecommunications and entertainment services, such as broadband Internet access, fixed and mobile telephone, and television. But for Fermin, it’s more than that. "It's about the freedom of customers to multitask and use any service under any device they choose to," he said.
Under his leadership, PLDT Home DSL in 2014 reached its one-millionth-subscriber mark, emphasizing its leadership in broadband services.
During the first quarter of 2015, Fermin said PLDT HOME obtained 70% share of the market, remaining the leading broadband provider in the country.
All together now
"We will bring all the needs of our consumers together," Fermin replied when asked how he can help the entire PLDT group grow its traditional and new businesses.
PLDT over the past months partnered with Disney, Deezer and Front Seat – a local online entertainment site – to bundle music, games and e-books with its offers.
Just this April, it also forged a strategic alliance with Cignal Digital TV to introduce Triple Play, which allows PLDT HOME DSL subscribers to enjoy a three-in-one product bundle. This consists of broadband from PLDT HOME DSL, television access from Cignal TV, and a PLDT landline connection.
In addition to these, PLDT began building next-generation networks at a significant expense. PLDT said it is spending over P39 billion ($874.74 million) this year "to invest in a transformative infrastructure."
Its 2015 capital spending budget will be used to activate more 3G base stations and at the same time expand its Time Division-Long Term Evolution (TD-LTE) and Frequency Division- LTE (FD-LTE).
"The possibilities are endless, as we have shown in previous periods that when we harness the strength of our group, we create beautiful things that make a difference in consumers’ lives," said Fermin, who was the president of Greenwich Pizza Corporation and Chowking Food Corporation of Jollibee Foods Corporation before joining PLDT.
An addition to PLDT's array of products and services is Quadruple Play – a combination of fixed and mobile telephone, broadband Internet access and television.
“PLDT will soon combine its Triple Play service of broadband Internet access, television and telephone with wireless service, which will be called as Quad Play” Fermin said, without divulging details.
This forthcoming service of PLDT explains many of the deals that have been introduced in recent months.
"We have made broadband accessible to everyone and stimulated usage among new users. We recently launched the first and still only IPTV (Internet Protocol television) service with Cignal running on both Fibr and DSL," Fermin said.
PLDT also launched Telpad in December 2010 and it is boosting take-up by introducing new applications that come along with the unit.
Just this year, PLDT introduced the Home Fam Cam. This home monitoring system features a monitoring camera and software which parents can use to watch over their kids from wherever they are.
Technology, for Fermin, has transformed homes from what used to be a closed, shared network environment to a boundless one, as people have evolved into a set of highly mobile, digitally driven individuals.
"We are proud of our past and we are thrilled about our future," Fermin said. – Rappler.com
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