Wednesday, May 18, 2011

PLDT: Monopolizing Again?!

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It started with Globe. Then Smart. And with the wave of Filipinos learning to text and text like crazy, the Philippines soon became the Text Capital of the world. We were texting waaaaaaaaaaaay before the Americans even discovered the addiction. I daresay we were ahead of them 10 whole years! 

It wasn't uncommon for teens and adults alike to go through Php 300 in just a day, consuming cellular phone "load." It was an expensive addiction, but Filipinos were willing to pay. Then suddenly, this newcomer Sun Cellular turned the tables on the cellular giants Globe and Smart and introduced unlimited texting, even unlimited calling! The Philippines' mobile service landscape was never the same, since.

Thanks to Sun Cellular's entry in the market, the mobile network competition caused the three major cellular service players to keep upping the ante in giving their subscribers value for money. While the unlimited promo offers caused some users to maintain up to 3 cellular phones or just SIM cards to ensure connectivity (other Unlimited offer users won't reply to other people unless they are in the same network), certain cellular brand loyalists would stick to their networks. Thus, offers like unlimited texts or value-added texts to all networks started appearing on the market.

But just before all the offers could reach a crazy price drop in favor of the consumer, PLDT, who also owns Smart Communications, decided to raise its stakes and bought out the majority shares of Digitel, a.k.a. Sun Cellular, effectively neutralizing the third player and the table-turner in the industry.

Now, the Philippines essentially has only Globe Telecom and Smart Communications playing the mobile network field. What does this spell for users?

There was a time that I thought it would be great to have just one cellular company operating in the country. Frankly, I hated maintaining too many SIM Cards and effectively funding the Dual SIM/Multi-SIM cellphone market. But there is also another major worry in this big move by PLDT: This could mean that they could call the shots and shortchange the subscribers once more.

Remember those days when applying for a landline would take you a gazillion years before it gets approved? Okay, not exactly the time span from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic eras, but you get the picture? I recall an acquaintance of mine lamenting that it took 10 years for PLDT to approve their landline application. Ten frickin years! Imagine that! So it came as a relief when Bayantel and Globe Telecom (then Islacom) came into the picture. People started getting better service and even better value for their money as the ruling network giant became pressured to give better, faster service because of competition.

And yet here they are again, vying for a way to be the telecoms giant once more. What could this mean for Philippine subscribers?

  • The threat of being shortchanged. That's high on the list. Because they won't need to compete anymore, PLDT can damn well do whatever the hell they want with their services. Though we hope they won't abuse to that level, there IS a real threat, and measures should be undertaken to ensure that they would NEVER do this.
  • The threat of commanding rates that aren't favorable to the users. While that is a relatively remote possibility because users could well boycott or cut back on their mobile phone use, if PLDT buys out Globe as well, this possibility won't be so remote anymore.

The consumer is taken care of and catered to in a competition-based, capitalistic, free economy. Monopolies benefit only one entity: The Man. And unless the government stops kissing ass and listens to The People instead of The Man, the very benefits we enjoy today could be gone tomorrow. Protect consumer rights. Be informed, form a position, and promote moves that support free market economy. The rights you will campaign for will be your own.


This post was written in favor of the formulation of the Philippine Anti-Trust Law.

For more information:

What are Anti-Trust Laws? 
More on Competition Laws
Pro-Choices Against No-Choice: A Big NO To Monopoly

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