Goodbye Telstra, San Miguel to launch 'BellTel' this 2016?

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the botched partnership with Telstra, San Miguel Corporation is expected to launch this year its mobile services through Bell Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (BellTel).
San Miguel to launch 'BellTel' this 2016
Ramon Ang’s SMC and Australian telecom giant Telstra end joint venture talk with a “no.”
Then, ring the 'Bell.'
“San Miguel’s entry in the telecom market will definitely be a game changer. When we launch, consumers will benefit from better, cheaper service,” SMC President and COO Ramon S. Ang said.

Belltel, which SMC acquired in 2010 through Vega Telecom Inc, has 197 base stations in Metro Manila, of which 191 already have radio station licenses, Interaksyon has reported.

Ang added that the company is currently testing the LTE service, which would be rolled out “very soon” or within 2016. “We won’t switch it on until it’s perfect,” he said to the media.

Reports said that the company has ongoing rollout of base stations from Pampanga to Batangas. Same with major players, the concentration is still the National Capital Region (NCR).

While on the stage of developing a mobile network, Telstra has offered aid in technical network design and construction consultancy to make SMC's network brand an equally competent rival of industry leaders, PLDT and Globe Telecom. The company also hired experienced engineers allegedly coming from the existing players in the country.

“Both SMC and Telstra worked hard,” Ang says

In a statement, San Miguel announced to public that both SMC and Telstra worked hard to come up with an acceptable resolution to some issues.

"However, we agreed we can no longer continue with the talks. I believe this is best for all parties," Ang said.

It can be remembered that the Filipino business tycoon made an announcement last October 2015 at the Forbes Global CEO Conference of the possibility of SMC having a joint venture with Telstra that will finally provide an unparalleled mobile and internet services in the country.

The announcement was greeted with a very warm response by some Filipino mobile subscribers who have been consistently complaining of the alleged poor telecommunication service experience in the country. Some also claimed they are willing to pay a higher price just to enjoy the promising services of the SMC-Telstra backed network.

On the other hand, Telstra's CEO Andrew Penn confirmed the news on a separate press statement saying that "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."

Telstra supposed to invest USD1 billion to speed up PH internet

Originally, Telstra was supposed to pour in a huge $US1 billion for the joint venture with SMC with the hope to enable the Philippines to experience the standard high-speed mobile and internet services, something which it doesn't have as compared to its ASEAN neighbors.

The Philippines ranks lowly among its ASEAN peers in terms of having the fastest internet services while at the same time serves as one of the leaders in terms of having the most expensive broadband services being paid by its consumers.

When Ookla conducted a household speedtest last May 2015, the Philippines showed very poorly among its Asian contemporaries, ranking 21st among the 22 countries, just above the cellar dweller Afghanistan.

May 2015's Ookla houshold speedtest index result:

1. Singapore - 122.43 Mbps
2. Hong Kong - 102.96 Mbps
3. Japan - 82.12 Mbps
4. South Korea - 59.77 Mbps
5. Macau - 50.66 Mbps
6. Taiwan - 50.59 Mbps
7. Thailand - 19.82 Mbps
8. Mongolia - 17.92 Mbps
9. Vietnam - 17.70 Mbps
10. Bangladesh - 9.86 Mbps
11. Cambodia 9.04 Mbps
12. Nepal 8.63 Mbps
13. Brunei 7.99 Mbps
14. Bhutan - 7.82 Mbps
15. India 7.04 Mbps
16. Malaysia 7.03 Mbps
17. Laos 6.92 Mbps
18. Indonesia 6.68 Mbps
19. Myanmar 6.54 Mbps
20. Pakistan 4.00 Mbps
21. Philippines - 3.64 Mbps
22. Afghanistan - 2.52 Mbps

Duopoly and corruption seen as obstacles in Telstra-SMC joint venture

Aside from the differences that kept the two conglomerates from sending the go signal for their joint venture, other factors were also being analyzed in the business world.

First, the threat of having a third player in the telecommunications industry backed by a foreign telecom giant made the duopoly of Philippine Long Distance Telephon Company (PLDT) and Globe Telecom Incorporated to allegedly implement all the necessary measures to block any possible attempts for SMC to bring the services of Telstra with it.

Reports said that both have ramped up public awareness and lobbying to secure part of San Miguel’s 700 Mhz spectrum, a low-band frequency good for covering large areas efficiently.

Utilizing the 700-MHz band would allow the deployment of a high-capacity LTE-based wireless and fixed broadband network to deliver higher data rate and LTE wireless broadband service. With the use of the 700-MHz frequency, broadband prices can go down further benefitting consumers.

Another issue is the rampant bureaucratic corruption in which the Philippine government has been notoriously known for. Although the present government lifted up the global image of the Philippines, the vestiges of its old identity as an accessory to high-level corruption activities still persists. Take for example the busted 2008 NBN-ZTE deal in which the former first gentleman Mike Arroyo was accused of having a hand on it. -Michael Santiago/The Summit Express

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