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.
These were framing comments I made at the Panel discussion on “Regulatory challenges arising from the new mobile ecosystem,” GSMA Public Policy Forum at the Mobile Asia Expo 2013, Shanghai, 27 June 2013. The keywords are ecosystem and regulatory. It is widely recognized that the emerging Internet-centric communication system is far more complex than the old voice-centric one and that many more actors are involved, beyond the telecom operators, their vendors, regulators and policy makers. In particular, content and applications providers play an increasingly important role. Unfortunately, they are not represented on this panel, a shortcoming that I hope will be remedied in future episodes of what has to be a continuing conversation.
For what LIRNEasia does, scholarly publishing with slow-paced peer review and print-on-paper publishing has not been the best fit. Our 2006 work got published in a 2008 book and our 2008 survey data got published in a special issue of a journal in 2011. But the question of assessing and ensuring quality is ever present and the natural answer is peer review. With peer review, delay is part of the package. Plus it can be a conservative force.
Reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a rite of passage for college students (should still be). The key point I took away from it was the need to focus on quality. My most favorite economics book is Exit, Voice and Loyalty, by Albert Hirschman. Also a discourse on quality. Perhaps because I read Zen at an impressionable age .
It is nice to know that we at LIRNEasia have been ahead of the curve on Broadband QoSE, including on understanding it as more than simply download speed. Professor Gonsalves’s paper on the subject is here. The NYT today carried a story that says many of the things we have been talking about for the past two years. Tracking the speed of Internet service is becoming more and more important as everyone asks the Internet to do more than handle e-mail messages and Web pages. A few lines of text can take its time arriving, but applications sending voice calls or streaming video become unusable if there is too much delay in delivery.
I had the opportunity of chairing a panel of seven persons from various parts of Asia at the Forum at ITU Telecom Asia 2008 in Bangkok.  After we got around the inane title of Manga for the masses, we had a decent discussion, focussing on the aspects of connecting the unconnected, assuring adequate quality to the connected, and content.   My overview slides setting the frame are here. Contrary to expectation, the Chairman of the Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission, representing perhaps one of the least connected of the countries of Asia, talked about using universal service funds to develop content.   Several people referred to the counter-productive nature of universal service taxes, wherein poor people were being taxed to provide services to poor people, yet those taxes were not being utilized, wisely or otherwise.