Talks of a wireless joint venture between beer giant San Miguel Corporation and Australia’s biggest phone and Internet company Telstra have broken down, as the two parties have conceded that they are no longer forming a third telecom operator in the Philippines, where Internet connectivity is notoriously slow and expensive, not to mention controlled by two large conglomerates, PLDT and Globe Telecom.
SMC president and COO Ramon Ang yesterday told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that SMC and Telstra have “agreed that we can no longer continue with the talks” despite working around the clock to “resolve some issues.” Ang said the local conglomerate would continue to push through with its plans to launch an affordable and high-speed Internet service, regardless of whether it finds a new investor to take Telstra’s place.
In a separate report by The Australian, Telstra chief Andrew Penn confirmed the latest development to what has been one of the biggest tech stories in the Philippines of last year.
“While this opportunity is strategically attractive, and we have great respect for San Miguel Corporation and its president Mr. [Ramon] Ang, it was obviously crucial that the commercial arrangements achieved the right risk-reward balance for all involved,” Penn said. It was previously reported that Telstra was looking to spend up to $US1 billion for proposed mobile plans in the country.
Telstra, for its part, has offered to provide infrastructure-related assistance and consultancy support to SMC and will continue to pursue growth opportunities in Asia. The latter has gained considerable momentum since the Australian carrier acquired submarine communications network Pacnet in 2015 for $US697 million.
The latest State of the Internet report by U.S.-based online content and network firm Akamai reveals that the Philippines has the second-worst average download speed (2.8Mbps) in the Asia-Pacific region, besting only India. By comparison, top-ranked South Korea averaged a speed of 20.5Mbps.
We can’t say we’re surprised to hear that negotiations have sputtered and came to a halt Sunday, leaving a trail of disappointment and unmet expectations. Anyone who has been following this story since it broke could see the writing on the wall, and Telstra must not have liked what it saw.
The skyrocketing estimates of offering affordable, reliable, and high-speed Internet service in an archipelago; the increasingly louder call to reallocate the much-sought-after 700MHz wireless frequency, which is currently mostly held by Liberty Telecom, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation; SMC’s failed attempt at making a dent in the local telecoms industry with Wi-Tribe — you can take your pick between these red flags, but there are other concerns.
But the bottomline is the arrival of a third force in the Philippines’ telecom market has been pushed back indefinitely, which means the long-suffering customers of existing telcos will continue to have little to no choice for quality mobile and broadband service.
Below is a copy of Telstra’s press release regarding the failed joint venture.
Negotiations ended on Philippines wireless joint venture
Telstra and San Miguel Corporation have been unable to reach commercial arrangements on a possible equity investment in a wireless joint venture in the Philippines and negotiations have therefore ceased.
Telstra Chief Executive Officer Andrew Penn today said the organisations had agreed at the weekend to bring negotiations to an end.
“Despite an enormous amount of effort and goodwill on all sides, we were simply unable to come to commercial arrangements that would have enabled us all to proceed,” Mr Penn said.
“While this opportunity is strategically attractive, and we have great respect for San Miguel Corporation and its President Mr Ang, it was obviously crucial that the commercial arrangements achieved the right risk-reward balance for all involved.”
Telstra has offered to continue technical network design and construction consultancy support to San Miguel Corporation, should those services be required.
“We continue to pursue growth opportunities in Asia consistent with our strategy. Following our April 2015 acquisition of Pacnet, Telstra is now one of the largest connectivity providers in Asia,” Mr Penn said.
“Our investment decisions will be guided by our capital management framework. Investments remain an important part of our future to ensure sustainable growth in earnings and shareholder returns over time.”
Telstra last year confirmed it had been negotiating a possible joint venture with San Miguel Corporation and envisaged investing up to USD$1 billion should the joint venture proceed.
[irp posts=”7566″ name=”Singapore, S. Korea dominate 4G LTE rankings, Philippines struggles”]
PLDT, Smart activate Philippines’ first 5G towers
In partnership with Huawei and Ericsson
More 5G phones are slated for release early next year, which is why telecom companies are already preparing for the next generation of wireless connectivity. The race to 5G is pretty tight, but the first to kickstart its 5G network in the Philippines is PLDT along with its wireless arm Smart.
The sister companies activated the first 5G cell site in the Philippines — not just one though, but two. In partnership with Huawei, the first 5G tower is located right in the heart of Makati City where PLDT’s headquarters is located. The second one is at Clark Smart 5G City within the premises of Clark Freeport Zone and the technology partner is Ericsson.
With two 5G cell sites already up and running, PLDT and Smart are one of the pioneers of the 5G network in the world. Only a few telco operators in the world have 5G base stations and they are in developed countries.
For now, the 5G service is not available to consumers. PLDT and Smart are yet to come up with 5G solutions and applications especially for central business districts like Makati. There’s no exact date when regular consumers can experience 5G connectivity, but PLDT and Smart are already deploying 5G-ready equipment for LTE-enabled towers nationwide.
According to PLDT, they have the most extensive fiber network in the Philippines spanning over 221,000 kilometers. With Smart as the wireless arm, both claim to be in the best position to deploy 5G in the country.
Is the Philippines ready to have its first smart city?
See how businesses will shape our cities to the future
Living in 2018 means we see how things transform in smarter ways. As we go digital, lifestyle shifts and businesses are veering away from traditional marketing to catch up with consumers. Apps like Grab and Lazada are changing the way we travel and shop.
This is why MSI-ECS hosted the first-ever CXO Innovation Summit to discuss “Digital Transformation,” which tackled the integration of digital technology in all areas of a business. It was held last November 9 to 11, 2018 in Shangri-la Mactan Resort and Spa in Cebu, Philippines.
Leaders of the IT industry shared their thoughts, plans, and solutions to the problems encountered as the world gets smarter. The three-day event discussed big data, cutting-edge securities, artificial intelligence, machine learning, smart cities, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
As a consumer, I believe that we should be attentive of what’s happening around us, especially with what the enterprises plan to do in the future. After all, we are the end users of their products and services.
AI is making the world more intelligent
Huawei is leading the industry in developing intelligent products through artificial intelligence. In their forecast, AI will change everything. We can have a safer city that supports intelligent transportation and predicts disasters. Healthcare services can improve drastically by preventing diseases early on and providing diagnosis assistance. There will also be faster R&D for pharmacies and medicines.
In addition, enterprises can have their logistics run smoothly through monitoring and auto sorting. Manufacturers can run their own maintenance and detect deficiencies, as well. The possibilities seem endless when AI is integrated with everything that you can imagine.
An example of AI Integration is the Shenzhen airport, which recently adopted facial recognition technology, making their operations more efficient. It hopes to increase direct boarding from terminals by 70 percent and lower passenger wait time by 15 percent.
If you’ve noticed, we’re already surrounded by IoT with AI built in. The Internet of Things, in summary, is the network of devices, electronics, software, and things that connect, collect, and exchange data. Some examples are sensors, security cameras, wearables, and electric cars.
This year, we’ve seen a lot of IoT packed with AI unveiled in different shows and events such as LG’s Cloi and Huawei’s recently launched Mate 20 and Mate 20 Pro. This is only the beginning, and we’re bound to see more of these in years to come.
Rise of smart cities
In a futuristic paradise, we are surrounded with IoT and everyone is connected. According to Cisco, a leader in IT and networking, smart cities are filled with IoT to improve every citizen’s life in terms of mobility, connectivity, safety, and security.
Copenhagen, for example, is using digital technology to reduce carbon emissions, making this city a place where people want to live in and new businesses want to invest in to bring in more revenue.
In the Philippines, PLDT and its subsidiary Smart started their plans on making the first smart city in the Clark Freeport Zone. Smart is currently upgrading their network, and started deploying 5G-ready equipment in an ongoing LTE rollout. They’re putting the possibilities of 5G closer to industries, businesses, and enterprises operating in the city in hopes of attracting more foreign investors.
Banks are also developing their apps and virtual wallets like GCash, which help enable people to go cashless and rely more on digital services. The thought of living in a smart city is promising. However, it’s also terrifying as it poses another threat: security.
The problem with being connected
Cyber security is already a big issue for personal safety. There are breaches on companies that collect information and personal data.
Staying connected means our personal information is freely given to those who we authorize to use it. Social media sites, financial apps, and shopping websites gather our data (like our credit card details) as we use their platform.
But it’s not just the tech giants that should be cautious of cyber criminals. There are also bank accounts, governments, and most importantly, ourselves to worry about
One of the top cyber security companies in the world, Fortinet, is working closely with companies like Microsoft and Adobe to help improve their system and protect them from cyber attacks.
Are we ready to live in a smart city?
Considering that our everyday lifestyle relies more on digital services, I’m sure that everyone will adapt easily. It’s up to us to be prepared in the worst-case scenario, and to hope that the government and businesses will do their best to keep everything safe and secure even if the world gets smarter.
More countries consider banning Huawei and ZTE
China-phobia is back
Throughout 2018, Huawei’s and ZTE’s stories have been tinged by cybersecurity issues. Across the globe, countries have discussed the companies’ potential for Chinese espionage. The story first broke out in the United States. Since then, US officials have bounced back and forth on whether both companies should be banned. In what was assumed to be a final swing, the United States reinstated Huawei and ZTE back into the American corporate world.
Now, more countries have picked up the pace. Australia, Japan, and the UK have recently declared their concern over Huawei’s security. Today, Germany joins in on the fun. All four countries are considering a total ban on Huawei’s hardware.
In all four nations, cybersecurity concerns appeared right before the dawn of 5G networking. Of note, Huawei and ZTE are important facets in the new network’s growth. Both are developing their own solutions to 5G networking. Facing a possible ban, they might have to look elsewhere to further their 5G dreams.
Discussions stem directly from China’s newly implemented National Intelligence Law. Within this law, China forces companies and individuals to serve the government when needed. The ruling breeds fear in other countries. Chinese companies operating within their borders can open a backdoor for China.
As the bidding game for every country’s first 5G network starts, Huawei and ZTE might have to step back. Particularly, Germany isn’t sure about a Chinese network building the infrastructure for the next generation of communication. As of now, no plans have been announced yet. However, the move will definitely come with repercussions in any of the four countries.
Besides network infrastructure, Huawei also has plans for other 5G hardware. Reportedly, the company will release its first 5G phone next year. Additionally, this phone will come with a foldable hinge, similar to Samsung’s own foldable phone.
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