Holding fast to the true spirit of communications | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

Holding fast to the true spirit of communications

/ 02:01 AM November 28, 2022

The past 60 years in Philippine modern data communications is a curious study on how advances in technology have changed the fabric of Filipino lives. While giant strides have been made to empower people to communicate, it is a case of why having too much of something is never a good thing.

When communication tools were at their barest, we sent out the most meaningful messages, and held freedom of speech sacred. Yet, when presented with unlimited options to express ourselves, we spread the lies, amplify falsehoods and suppress the truth.

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Consider the early days when means to communicate were limited: when what one says was measured by the second; when messages were counted per character and truncated to get through; when operator assistance was needed to reach out, be it in cases of emergencies at home, in the office or out in the field; when urgent matters of life or death were on the line; when urgent announcements were needed to be made; when important news could not wait; when word on next step results was highly anticipated; when immediacy was a luxury, and real-time communication was reserved for what was essentially important. This was the era of the telegram, the public calling offices, the landline and the pager—communication services where PT&T, as a leading pioneer, shone brightest from the 60s through the mid-90s. Way back then, PT&T already understood that what mattered most to customers lay deep in the true spirit of why people communicate.

Unfortunately, the company experienced difficulties during the 1997 Asian financial crisis, made worse by technology obsolescence as analog gave way to digital, be it in PT&T’s telegram, local exchange carrier and paging businesses. With the entry of more players and new technologies in a much-liberalized environment, PT&T’s once mighty market position was besieged on all fronts. It was a painful lesson that threatened our survival but steeled our resolve to ride the storm, regroup and start our quest for revival.

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In August 2017, the Menlo Capital group came in to revive the company, and brought in new management in 2018 to revitalize PT&T. With a new leadership team, experienced in both telecommunications, and information, communication and technology (ICT), we got together to define what the new PT&T is all about. And in that same year, crafted our mission and vision, “We are the leading digital service provider of world-class solutions that enable Filipinos everywhere – to enrich their lives, connect communities, and contribute to nation-building.” This mission is supported by our core values of “commitment to excellence, customer-centricity, collaboration, honor, agility, accountability, innovation, nation-building and stakeholder value.”

The past four years saw us focused on putting our customers at the center of our revival, resulting in a fivefold revenue growth. We embarked on upgrading our network, replacing all copper assets with fiber that now spreads to over 24,000 fiber-core kilometers across our service areas, with potential to extend to 110,000 fiber core kilometers of ultra high-speed internet. We firmly believe there should be no compromise on speeds and more importantly, on delivering superior customer support, as these will, in the end, differentiate us from the rest.

To add value to our connectivity solutions, we introduced IT services three years ago, fortuitously just before the pandemic, allowing us to position ourselves as a partner in digital transformation, helping our customers navigate through the uncertainty and complexity of their digital journeys. PT&T today is well on its way to be the go-to partner for connectivity and beyond!

While it is important to invest in infrastructure, equally important is our focus on developing our people. PT&T was recently awarded ‘Private Sector Learning & Development Company’ for the year by the Philippine Society for Talent Development. In building a mindset of continuous learning and improvement, we have likewise earned two key ISO certifications, 9001 and 27001. These recognitions support our goal of providing best customer service that can only be delivered by a dedicated and capable team.

Next Stop: After our successful revival, what’s next for PT&T?

Turning 60 through a cycle of ups and downs has strengthened our foundation to pave the path toward a stronger future, as we set sight to secure PT&T to be one of the few Philippine companies to reach 100 years.

Over the next 10 years, PT&T will be embarking on an ambitious plan based on four major elements and anchored on a growth mindset:

• Pursue our organic expansion, upgrade our existing network in the National Capital Region and Calabarzon—Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon—as well as nationwide network expansion.

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• Through own build and partnership, we intend to reach 500 cities in the country, for which PT&T already has a license to operate IT services expansion.

• Given our early successes in this area, we want to extend our capability by investing in data center, cloud and managed services.

• Finally, harness our 5G fixed wireless access infrastructure. Understanding the potential of 5G, we will extend this technology into our fixed broadband services using existing frequencies we have in the high-millimeter wave spectrum.

Even as today’s competitive landscape offers a myriad of tools and platforms, one needs to ask if this has led to a positive outcome in furthering the flow of information to make a better Philippines. With advances in communications technology, have we advanced as well in educating our people better, in improving the flow of goods, in supporting the growth of businesses, in creating a more transparent and efficient way of governance, in raising our competitiveness as a nation in the global stage? What compounds the problem more is we still find large swaths of the country unserved/underserved with the lack of basic data communications infrastructure that we know is essential to their progress.

In today’s world where data and talk are cheap, where everyone has something to say, when frivolity gets mixed with the essential, when truth or facts get buried by fake news, where everyone is talking and no one is listening, when freedom of expression is abused and abased, when dialogs are rare, and dinner discussions even rarer, we need to find new meaning and purpose to how it is like to truly communicate. Bring back the essence of communication: to express and exchange ideas, to seek to understand, to inform, to change.

Through this lens, we see PT&T’s future as bright and the opportunities endless. Key to our future success is harkening to the strength of our past, to champion responsible, progressive and positive communication to strengthen institutions —government, business, communities, families and relationships. It is a loud call we hear to go back and hold fast to the true spirit of communications. INQ

The author is a member of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) ICT Committee. He is the president and CEO of PT&T Corp. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected]

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