Smart Communications Inc., the wireless subsidiary of PLDT Inc. is spending $21 million (P1 billion) to expand the coverage of the country’s WiFi service reports The Philippines Star.

The project aims to expand WiFi coverage for transport hubs, government offices as well as business establishments in the country during this year. Smart Communications Inc. has stated that the $21 million budget allocated for WiFi expansion is a part of the $910 million capital expenditures set for this year.

Smart is currently working on the upgrade of the public WiFi hotspots in the four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, as well as other airports in high traffic areas. This expansion will surely benefit passengers and travelers who initially had low exposure to internet connectivity at airports.

Apart from airports, Smart WiFi is also being made available to passengers waiting at the terminals of big bus companies such as Five Star Bus, Jam Liner and Victory Liner.

Smart is also penetrating public areas such as city halls, malls and coffee shops to ensure that the city becomes more enhanced in internet connectivity.

This year, Smart has aggressively broadened the company’s WiFi footprint through partnerships with government institutions and business establishments, as they all have the same goal of improving internet coverage nationwide.

The company’s WiFi rollout is also in line with their aim to help boost SMEs operations in the country.

Through Smart’s Wi-Fi service, users could enjoy free connectivity for an initial number of minutes. For continued usage, they can purchase credits from Smart, similar to how one would top up a phone with credit. Smart’s WiFi service is supported by PLDT’s fixed networks, and the company plans to implement a three year network expansion program to better connect the country at a high speed rate.

A version of this appeared in The Philippine Star on July 11. Read the full version here.

Philippines Startup Launches Wifi Bundling Service, Wins Microsoft Grant

Now you can get free wifi when you buy your chocolate bars, thanks to Wifi Interactive Network

Microsoft is trying to get people in developing countries online. As a part of this initiative, the tech giant has launched ‘Affordable Access Initiative’, reports Tech in Asia.

Microsoft is partnering with local entrepreneurs and giving grants across the globe to startups that are working to provide affordable access in their  local markets. A Philippines based startup, Wifi Interactive Network (WIN) has won this grant through setting up a ‘wifi bundling’ startup. WIN gets brands to give wifi to the consumers by giving a wifi code that allows the consumer to connect to the local hotspot upon purchase.

WIN gets local brands in Philippines to carry the cost of installing and maintaining wifi hotspots at stores. This extends to small neighborhood convenience stores to bars. On the consumer’s side, it is also very straightforward, they simply need to register for access via smartphone and have the store approve the request, then they will receive a passcode for wifi access.

 Wifi Interactive Network (WIN) has won this grant with its ‘wifi bundling’ startup, which packages free wifi hotspots with typically bought consumer goods. 

WIN allows consumers to buy internet access in sachets. Sachets are a common way to buy consumer products, such as shampoo or milk in emerging markets, as they are cheaper than bottles. If a consumer buys a sachet of a sponsoring brand’s milk, they will get wifi access for usually 30 minutes.

This is a sustainable business model because the brands generate immediate revenue and acquire data analytics of purchase behavior at the store level. Philip Zulueta, WIN Founder

It monetizes by charging brands a monthly subscription fee per location, and now has 41 wifi hotspots. 34 in the capital with the rest in provinces in Luzon island.

The startup is planning to use the $150,000 funding from Microsoft to install base stations that will broadcast wifi signal to areas without any internet coverage.

By penetrating the low income markets, startups such as WIN are helping to boost the tech infrastructure of Philippines, as more people want access to data. Everyone has the potential to become a consumer, Philippines’ sachet market operates on smaller bite sizes with high purchase frequency, which is consistent with our sponsors’ target audience.

As WIN tackles the problem of consumers who can’t afford data plans that matches their income, its business model could go onto provide access to a whole new market segment.

A version of this appeared in Tech in Asia on July 4. Read the full article here.


Ericsson Mobility Report

Fig.1: Mobile subscription is set to increase at a compound annual growth rate

The Ericsson Mobility Report, published in June, presents a market overview of mobile broadband and smartphone availability in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Find the key takeaways below:

  • Smartphone subscriptions are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15%, up until 2021 (See Fig.1).
  • The rise of mobile broadband is due to smartphone availability and popularity of data intensive apps (leading to a competition of data driven bundle deals by Thai mobile carriers).
  • Mobile broadband growth has the potential to trigger an entirely new wave of growth across Southeast Asia, opening up opportunities for innovation in apps and services
Ericsson Mobility Report

Fig.2: Line is the most popular app in Thailand, whereas other countries in the region prefer the Facebook trifecta.

Unlike Whatsapp, Line users in Thailand are able to do more than messaging on the app. Line offers payments, branded content through mobile marketing and has now branched out to food delivery. This would explain the app’s popularity in the country, whilst Whatsapp remains the go-to choice for smartphone users in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Smartphone Use In Southeast Asia

Ericsson also reports that in Malaysia and Thailand, almost half of smartphone users access social networking, instant messaging and online videos on a daily basis (40-50%), making the two countries very mobile driven. This focus on mobile leaves a lot of room open for mobile commerce opportunities, from payment platforms to shopping (see Fig.3)

Ericsson Mobility Report

Fig.3: Thailand and Malaysia has the most daily users of social networking apps

When it comes to the profiles of daily smartphone users, there are differences between countries. However, there is an overrepresentation of users who are young and educated from a regional level.

Ericsson Mobility Report

Fig.4: Currently, Wi-Fi has the larger share of overall smartphone traffic

Southeast Asia’s mobile broadband and Wi-Fi data traffic on smartphones continues to grow. User generated data shows that all markets in the region experienced increases in average data traffic per user for mobile broadband and Wi-Fi. Leisure time apps, such as games are not necessarily data intensive but are often accessed from home, this also contributes to Wi-Fi growth.

Mobile Subscriptions in Southeast Asia

Ericsson Mobility Report

Fig 5: Indonesia leads the way in mobile subscriptions

  • Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are expected to have more than 100% mobile broadband subscription penetration by the end of 2016.
  • Mobile subscriptions in the region will grow annually at 4% between 2015-2021, totaling to 1.2 billion by the end of 2021.
  • Mobile broadband services are foreseen to account for more than 90% of total mobile subscriptions in the region by the end of 2021.

Although fixed broadband subscription penetration is still low in emerging markets, compared to mobile broadband, the region has been seeing a growth in middle income households that should contribute to the rise in demand or high speed broadband services in residential areas. This is particularly true in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Mobile broadband will still be the main form of broadband access for the majority of people in the emerging markets of Southeast Asia. This opens up a window of opportunity for operators to fill the need for home broadband.

Network Performance In the Region

Communications is increasingly becoming more app centric, with video streaming to be accounting for almost 70% of all global mobile data traffic by 2021. The increasing popularity of video streaming services on smartphones is driving innovation in video compression and display technology. In order for videos to be fully utilized, a high speed network is much needed.

High expectations will continue to be placed on network performance. This should be challenging for developing countries. As mobile connectivity grows, network connectivity should be experiencing similar rate of growth in order to facilitate innovation.

Download the full Ericsson Mobility Report, June 2016, here.