PLDT, Globe rivalry over 5G technology heating up
The rivalry between PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom is taking on a generational shift.
Over the previous week, both telcos made claims about the rollout of their 5G, or fifth generation, mobile networks. The technology promises faster internet speeds and lower latency, making it ideal for data-intensive activities such as high quality video streaming and gaming as well as potential uses in financial trading and healthcare.
Globe was the more aggressive of the two, stating that it would offer its first 5G service for home broadband subscribers by the middle of 2019, at least six months ahead of PLDT’s Smart Communications.
Smart’s target of having a 5G-ready network “by 2020” was more consistent with earlier forecasts released by the GSM Association, a trade group of mobile network operators. GSMA said final 5G standards would be set by 2019, with commercial rollout seen the following year.
It should be noted that both Globe and PLDT are still investing heavily in 4G. A significant portion of the Filipino population still uses older 3G and 2G networks.
The pair of announcements on 5G came amid the government’s drive to lure a new telco challenger—one it hopes will introduce better, next-generation products including 5G to help improve the overall quality of telecom services in the country.
During PLDT’s annual meeting on Wednesday, chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan explained to shareholders that the issue on 5G was “rather complex” and that questions on its commercial viability lingered at this stage.
“We will launch as soon as we can but we have to launch it properly, when it will be commercially feasible,” Pangilinan said in an interview on the sidelines of the meeting. He cited the lack of standards, the devices that can use 5G and the network rollout that PLDT would employ.
Globe fired back with a statement the next day, noting that it was in response to Pangilinan’s “claim” on the commercial feasibility of 5G.
“Globe president and CEO Ernest Cu reiterates the company’s commitment to connect more homes with fifth-generation (5G) wireless technology,” Globe said in a statement, citing as a source Cu’s Instagram account, which is on a private setting.
“The technology is one step closer to deployment in the Philippines after its successful demonstration of 5G capabilities in a real-world outdoor environment over a live network,” Globe added.
The contrary views on viability and Globe’s own announcement for 5G-powered residences also highlighted PLDT and Globe’s different approach to rolling out fixed broadband.
For the home segment, PLDT has placed more focus on laying down fiber lines while Globe has leaned toward wireless broadband.
PLDT’s fiber service has reached some 4.4 million homes to date while Globe said it had about 1.4 million broadband customers. (Globe’s figure includes both fixed and wireless home subscribers).
Pangilinan said on Wednesday they remained committed to rolling out more fiber lines this year to reach about five million homes.
He explained that a wireless service was a shared network among several users. A fixed-line platform, on the other hand, is dedicated and is thus “not capable of being degraded.”
Whether PLDT would continue to puruse a fiber-intensive strategy for households in 2019 “is still an open question internally,” Pangilinan noted.
“But most likely, we will still continue to lay down fiber over time,” he said.
In February, Cu explained Globe’s strategy to put more emphasis on fixed wireless broadband while laying down fiber cables in select areas.
“We tend to see delayed monetization, and that’s the dark fiber happening,” Cu said, referring to underutilized fiber lines. “So we decided that in order to reach the market much sooner and allow people to have broadband in the home much sooner, we went with wireless to the home as a solution, and prepaid at that.”
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