PH has ‘slowest, most expensive’ Internet service, DICT usec admits

By Edd K. Usman

A top government ICT official called attention to the country’s notoriously slow Internet speeds during the opening of an Internet of Things (IoT) conference in Pasay City.

Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) undersecretary Monchito “Mon” Ibrahim admitted that the country — one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, if not the world — nevertheless suffers from the poorest Internet service.

DICT undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim during the IoT summit

DICT undersecretary Monchito Ibrahim during the IoT summit

“What’s up, guys?” Ibrahim greeted some 400 tech experts from the Philippines and other countries during a conference in Pasay City. “We still have the slowest internet in the region. We still have the most expensive Internet in the region.”

He issued these remarks during the first of the two-day “Asia IoT Business Platform” conference that was organized by Singapore-based Industry Platform Pte. Ltd.

But Smart Communications, one of the country’s telecommunications firms and the event’s platinum sponsor, took it all in stride.

“We understand the need for faster Internet. In fact, for the PLDT Group and Smart, that is one of the reasons why we acquired the 700 megahertz (MHz) band. Our counterparts have also acquired the same bandwidth,” Gio Abaquin, Smart’s business development manager for IoT and digital mobility, said.

The 700 MHz acquisition was aimed at being able to serve the market’s changing and more demanding needs. “Why? The 700 MHz band offers wider reach and better in-building penetration.”

As the Internet of Things connect more and more devices for used in the office — indoors or outdoors — the 700 MHz band allows PLDT Group and Smart to reach customers from afar in the provinces and customers in buildings, he added.

Abaquin also reiterated PLDT Group’s investment in the upwards of P48 billion “in our commitment to have 95 percent of the [municipalities of the] nation covered by LTE by end of 2018.”

A German technology expert who also spoke at the IoT conference underscored the importance of fast Internet.

With a speedy and stable Internet connection, an operation in Manila can be done by a doctor in Tokyo, Japan, through a robot connected to a fast internet, according to Ulf Moorfeld, who is with Deutsche Telekom’s international sales development (M2M).

In Europe, some countries have already adopted Narrowband (5G) which Deutsche Telekom had already rolled out a narrowband-IoT network in eight countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, and Croatia. Narrowband connectivity, Moorfeld said, is vital for smart cities.

Ibrahim also updated the audience on the government’s nationwide free Wi-Fi internet project. Of the total 13,000 access points, DICT may only be able to put up 700 since “very, very few bidders for the mid-mile…are interested for reasons not difficult to understand.”

Nevertheless, Ibrahim expressed confidence that an internet with similar speed with those in the other Asean countries would be realized soon.

“(We) are hoping by the end of the third of this administration’s term, we should have a decent Internet connectivity in the Philippines at least at par with the neighboring countries across Asean,” he said, pointing out that the foundation of IoT is connectivity.

On August 2, Pres. Rodrigo Dureter signed Republic Act No. 10929, otherwise known as the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act.

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