Philippines


We like to engage with National Statistical Offices. Because they have data we can use and population frames that make our surveys possible. Also because we believe we can help them understand the true potential of big data to complement old style data they’ve been working with for years. Why us? There are plenty of people with slide decks on big data.
LIRNEasia research fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos is an advocate for better broadband in the Philippines. She was recently given the great opportunity and daunting task of presenting the consumers’ perspective on telecom service access, quality, and affordability at the Philippines’ 1st Telecom Summit. Along with results from LIRNEasia’s broadband quality of service experience studied, she used statistics and analysis from different studies and her own research for validation. Various sources arrived at the same conclusion: Internet service in the country is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the world. In summary, the Philippines has: the slowest average fixed broadband speed in Asia Pacific (Akamai, Q4 2016); the second slowest 3G/4G overall speed in the world (OpenSignal, Feb 2017); the third most unaffordable internet service in Asia (EIU, 2017); unaffordable fixed broadband and mobile (post-paid) broadband services relative to average monthly income (ITU, 2016).
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has had the opportunity to identify the top consumer issues at the first Telecommunications Summit organized by the newly created Department of Information and Communications Technology recently. She writes about it in TelecomAsia: Although I’m very passionate about consumer woes—and it’s very easy to get carried away—I showed the results of studies and analyses by third (mostly disinterested) parties, as researchers are wont to do. I gathered statistics from Akamai Technologies, OpenSignal, The Economist Intelligence Unit, ITU’s Broadband Commission, and Measuring the Information Society reports. For validation, I threw in some of my own research done for LIRNEasia and a latest collaboration using Big Data analytics. What was common in these studies was that the country’s internet service is improving, but continues to be one of the slowest and most expensive in the region.
In the US, they included preemption powers in the 1996 Communication Act to enable the FCC to override state and municipal authorities on communication-related approvals. This was considered draconian. In my recommendations to governments, I have always been cautious about taking away the power of lower-levels of government. But it looks like the traffic situation in the Philippines has caused intelligent Senators to call for extreme measures. DICT Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr.
There is little doubt that the consumer gets a raw deal in the Philippines, as evidenced by broadband quality data. The long-term sustainable solution is a third and perhaps a fourth operator. But that prospect receded. The Philippines’ San Miguel Corp (SMC), after failing to find a foreign partner to launch a third mobile operator in the country, announced it is selling its telecoms assets to incumbents PLDT and Globe Telecom for more than $1 billion, with each taking a 50 per cent stake. The two operators, which together have a 99 per cent market share of mobile connections, will pay a total of PHP52.
According to the Economist, the end is in sight for the out-call and in-call centers. Time to move up the value chain. Software robots are only going to become faster, cleverer and cheaper. Sarah Burnett of Everest, a research firm, predicts that the most basic jobs will vanish as a result. Call-centre workers will still be needed, not for repetitive tasks, but to coax customers into buying other products and services.
Grace Mirandilla Santos has been working on this for a long time. Even after the formal proceeding ends, it appears she will have to help. Cabarios also expressed difficulties in getting wired and fixed wireless subscribers to volunteer for measurement of Internet speeds. Mary Grace Santos – an independent researcher for think-tank LIRNEasia – expressed willingness of civil society representatives present to encourage subscribers to volunteer their broadband services for testing and monitoring . “We will do a public call over social media so we can encourage more people to actively participate in the monitoring process,” Santos said.
Grace Mirandilla Santos, LIRNEasia Research Fellow, is nothing if not persistent. She has been hammering away at the broadband quality problem in the Philippines for a long time now. The big party thrown by the government for APEC leaders in Manila becomes the latest opportunity for her: A note to APEC delegates: this brand of hospitality does not, by any measure, reflect what the ordinary Filipino experience every day. Traffic navigation app Waze has branded Manila as having the worst road traffic compared to other cities that use it. NAIA airports experience congestion everyday, and most recently was plagued with the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scam that allegedly preys on tourists and overseas migrant workers.
An online publication has written about Grace Mirandilla Santos’s presentation at a recent Youth Congress on Information Technology: Citing various studies, Santos also revealed that 80% of all elementary schools or some 38,000 schools nationwide are not connected online. According to Santos’ study at LIRNEasia, ISPs give us 70% to 80% short of what they promise. “Ideally, there are more kilobytes per second you receive for every piso you pay. But it shows here that one kilobyte per peso is what we get, which is very low compared to other countries,” Santos explained. She added: “Of all the ISPs we tested, Philippine ISPs offer the lowest value for money, and that means that Filipino Internet subscribers are pretty more oppressed.
When the paper by Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla was presented at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei a few days back the discussant, Reg Coutts from Australia, asked why the paper supported action by the regulatory agency as a remedy for the manifest problems of quality in the Philippines market. My answer, on behalf of Shazna and Grace, was that regulatory action was an interim solution until the international backhaul problems were resolved. It was incomplete. I am happy that Grace has filled he gap in my answer. Another underlying problem was the duopoly in the access market.
Today, I had to field questions on behalf of Shazna Zuhyle and Grace Mirandilla Santos who made a canned presentation at CPRsouth 10 in Taipei on Measuring Broadband Performance: Lessons Learnt, Challenges Faced, because they could not be present in person. The principal question asked by the discussant (from Australia) and Enrico Calandro (Italy/South Africa) was why Zuhyle and Mirandilla Santos were proposing that national regulatory agencies (NRAs) should take on the responsibilities of broadband quality monitoring. Another person from the floor asked why Philippines and Asian broadband quality and value for money were so poor. I saw the answers to both questions as being connected. I said that the paper very clearly established that there was no one single method that was objectively superior to the alternatives.
At the Young Scholars’ program at CPRsouth10 in Taipei today, I was privileged to interview Grace Mirandilla Santos, a CPRsouth alumna (Young Scholar at CPRsouth 1; paper presenter at CPRsouth 2, 3, 4 and 10). The slides that I used to set up the talk are here. When describing how she managed to become a critical player in the Philippines broadband quality debates, she emphasized the role played by senior colleagues such as Jaime Faustino and Al Alegre in opening doors. But she was able to make use of these opportunities only because she had done the research, could leverage her networks to supplement what she knew and communicate what she knew effectively. She exploited the policy window using skill, but chance played a role too.
LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla Santos has been playing a leading role in getting the new rules on broadband quality approved. Here is one news report quoting her: INTERNET users in the Philippines are “paying more for less” as the actual speed of their connection has never reached the “advertised speed” by Internet service providers (ISPs), a study showed. Mary Grace Santos, a research fellow of the LIRNEasia, presented the results of their study during the hearing of the Senate committee on trade on the impact of slow and expensive Internet in the country. Santos, said LIRNEasia is a regional ICT (Information and Communications Technology) think tank policy that has been conducting quality of service testings since 2010. Read more: http://technology.
Manila retains its second position among the top-ten BPO destinations worldwide. It remains ahead of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune but ranks behind Bangalore, according to consultancy Tholons. The rapidly growing BPO industry now represents 6% of Philippines’ GDP and rivals remittances from migrant workers as the country’s largest revenue generator. BPO sector employs more than 1m people and the industry’s revenues, which currently stand at $18bn, could reach $25.5bn in 2016.
The Philippines Senate conducted its 4th public hearing on the Philippine internet, where the National Telecom Commission presented the summary of the position papers it received on MC 07-07-2011 on minimum broadband connection speeds. The photo shows Senator Bam Aquino (right) and government officials, including NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba and ICTO Deputy Executive Director Denis Villorente on the left. Comm. Cordoba personally approached LIRNEasia Research Fellow Grace Mirandilla-Santos to say that they really liked LIRNEasia’s comments, and that he would like to discuss our proposal further. There will be a 2nd NTC hearing on broadband QoS on 16 Feb 2015, which Grace plans to attend.
I have always been intrigued by the differences between South and South East Asian countries. We saw this over and over again when we did the Teleuse@BOP surveys. But playing around with some numbers for Facebook users in four South and four SE Asian countries, I was astounded. In all the SE Asian countries, there are more Facebook users than there are Internet users. In the case of Myanmar, the multiple is 4.