5G: Game-Changer for Philippines Broadband?

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
9/19/2019

For Philippines telco Globe Telecom, 5G is a fixed-wireless game-changer.

Globe's new 5G fixed-wireless service can provide affordable high-speed connectivity where current technologies cannot serve, according to Martha Sazon, senior VP broadband.

She said the operator has extracted as much as it could out of LTE, but that it had been constrained by the difficulty of adding new basestations due to nightmarish permitting issues.

To build a tower on a new site in the Philippines required 25 permits, which typically would take a year to obtain, Sazon said during the 5G Asia conference last week.

Innovations such as massive MIMO had improved LTE performance, but without being able to add capacity Globe had seen bandwidth max out at about 28 Mbit/s per customer, she said.

Sazon said Globe's 5G fixed-wireless service, launched in June, took advantage of colocation with existing mobile sites.

"We have also found out 5G is 30% more efficient per site, which allows us to offer more lines with more high-speed data allocations. So 5G is offering speeds at much more than 28 Mbit/s and at very high data allocations."

She said that with Philippines broadband penetration at around just 30%, 5G FWA had "very big potential."

Globe's main competitor, PLDT, has a deep wireline footprint, so Globe takes a multi-technology approach, deploying fiber, LTE and 5G depending on the customer and location.

"For areas where fiber cannot reach, that's where we have the opportunity to put 5G in. But we don't expect 5G in the home space to be everywhere. It's a very targeted approach," Sazon said.

She said 5G wireless wasn't suitable for high-rise apartments, where it couldn't reach the upper floors, or large private houses, which were usually served by fiber.

"But in more densely populated communities, which is actually 70% of our population, 5G is viable."


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The bigger throughput of 5G also means fast broadband becomes more affordable for low-income families.

Households on the basic income of $9-12 a day could never afford fiber.

But they can afford some 5G wireless packages, which cost as little as PHP1,899 ($36) per month for 20 Mbit/s and PHP2,899 ($55) for 100 Mbit/s.

Globe has also introduced prepaid wireless broadband, which makes sense given that 95% of the mobile market is also prepaid, Sazon added.

"We are seeing very good uptake of prepaid. It provides budget control at the same time as better speeds and higher data allocation."

Sazon said because 5G is still new Globe is moving cautiously with the rollout.

"Whereas normally you fire up a site and you launch it commercially, we may take a few weeks to test the technology."

Globe is gearing up for a nationwide 5G mobile rollout next year, starting in the capital, Manila.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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