Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Congressman files bill to tax text games and downloads

A BILL has been introduced in the House of Representatives to tax all entries for text games, specifically on text brigades, polls, surveys and gambling, where participants are most likely to win anything of financial value through excessive text messaging.
Rep. Joel Mayo Alamario of Davao Oriental, chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusement, said that although mobile carriers profit the government has yet to get revenues from them.
Almario noted that the revenues from these text games could help the government address its huge deficit.
Under House Bill 3222, taxes shall be imposed on text messages on promotions, contest by text messaging, downloading of ring tones, pictures and icons, which are usually accessed by a four-digit number.
However, SMS, or short messaging service, sent to a “regular” subscriber, post­paid or prepaid, is be included in the tax scheme, he said.
Almario’s proposal also prohibits mobile carriers from passing on the tax to the consumers through additional fees or charges.
“There is a need for the immediate passage of the bill because mobile carriers seem to have taken advantage of the Filipinos’ predilection to their cellular phones that they have managed to include the use of SMS in almost every aspect of the consumers’ lives,” Alma­rio said.
“SMS are used not only to send messages but to conduct polls, surveys, text brigades and even games of chance, or text gambling,” he added.
He said cellular phones are no longer a gadget solely for the rich because mobile-phone companies have made them available to the masses through clever marketing strategies.
“The influx of text gambling with the use of cellular phones in our country has affected all sectors of our society. It has reached our homes through the use of powerful mediums such as the television, newspapers, and the radio, bringing the popularity of cellular phones and text games to an unprecedented high,” Almario added.
--Maricel V. Cruz

Friday, December 16, 2005

BayanTel is now 3G compliant

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Lopez-owned Bayan Telecommunications (BayanTel) has now complied with the requirements by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for a license to offer wireless services using the third generation mobile communications technology or 3G.

Company officials said the requirements submitted by BayanTel fully comply with the implementing guidelines set by the NTC on the roll-out of 3G technology, including the submission of a P300-million performance bond.

BayanTel intends to roll out new technologies that synergize the deployment of wireless local loop, wireless broadband and 3G in a phased and cost effective deployment.

BayanTel’s chief executive consultant Tunde Fafunwa said the company has already allocated a significant amount of its capital expenditures, pegged at about P1.5 billion every year, for the initial deployment of these technologies in phases that would culminate in a critical-mass 3G deployment within the five year roll-out plan required by NTC.

"BayanTel certainly has the internal capability to meet the regulatory requirements by taking advantage of these new technologies for deployment. But we continue to remain open to the participation of local and foreign investors that would allow for the significant deployment of 3G," Fafunwa added.

The NTC will allocate five 3G frequency bands. Three existing mobile phone operators — Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, and Digitel Mobile — are prequalified for the allocation. Bayantel and Multi-Media have secured their 3G licenses while Next Mobile, CURE, AZ Communications and Pacific Wireless are awaiting the NTC’s decision on the grant of the license.

If the number of companies prequalified or granted 3G licenses exceed five, the government may bid out the 3G frequencies to the highest bidder.

Initially, through the wireless local loop (WLL), BayanTel subscribers will have the benefit of having a landline phone and another mobile phone (with the features of a cellular phone but actually works initially like a cordless phone) which operates within a three-kilometer radius.

In many developing countries, there is tremendous demand for new business and residential telephone service. More and more operators are looking to wireless technologies to rapidly provide thousands of new subscribers with high-quality telephone service at a reasonable price.

Through WLL, existing landline operators can extend their network. Cellular operators can also capitalize on their current network to deliver residential service with WLL while new service providers can quickly deploy non-traditional WLL solutions to rapidly meet a community’s telephony needs.

The system is based on a full-duplex radio network that provides local telephone-like service among a group of users in remote areas. These areas could be connected via radio links to the national telephone network, though allowing the WLL subscriber to call or be reached by any telephone in the world.

WLL solutions are particularly popular in remote or sparsely populated areas of developing countries, where cabled infrastructure is either too expensive to deploy or where speed of deployment is an issue

Thursday, December 15, 2005

RP mobile phone chips key to tapping OFW money


MANILA -- A THUMBNAIL-SIZE ceramic chip in the Philippines is changing

the way cash is couriered from its citizens across continents.
This chip, called a SIM card, has also earned smiles from multilateral
agencies such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, which, for
years, have been egging on banks to bring down the cost of sending money
from anywhere in the world.
In its *Global Economic Prospects for 2006*, the WB said that remittance
transaction costs are often "significantly lower than the fees that most
customers pay."
WB noted Smart Communications Inc.'s as "innovative," and proved the
multilateral agency's premise.
When customers buy a SIM [subscriber identification module] card from
Smart's any brands, the package usually contains a debit card, or what the
company called "Smart Money".
Back when it was introduced early in the decade, it was just another debit
card stuck with old receipts, calling cards, and candy wrappers inside
wallets. The card - which could be activated by sending a short message (SMS
or "text") to Smart's network - can be used to purchase products from
selected supermarkets and department stores.
That platform, which Smart's rival Globe Telecom Inc. has been too slow to
follow considering it had a much bigger banking affiliate, is now being used
to remit money at a rate far cheaper than the ordinary remittance service.
The ADB was the first to acknowledge these remittance services of the
country's top two mobile phone firms.
"The Philippines is right on the edge of (remittances) technology," said
Robert Bestani, director general of ADB's private sector operations
department, during a forum on remittances and poverty reduction last
The Manila-headquartered ADB believes that if the cost of remittances were
to be brought down to as low as possible from where it is now, more people
will be encouraged to use the formal system. Doing so, it said in two
reports on remittances, would increase the money flowing to the developing
countries and improve financial access of the poor.
"Reducing transaction fees will increase the disposable income of poor
migrants and increase the incentives to remit as the net receipts of
beneficiaries' increase," the WB has said in its own report released last
* *
*Caveat emptor*
THE caveat in using technology on sending money, according to the World Bank
study, is that if remittance fees were brought down, cross-border payments
for retail trade, investment, and pension benefits would also increase.
This means there will be more traffic of money in the system: the banks can
earn more because they earn through such money traffic alone.
At the moment, providers of remittance service in the formal sector-or the
banks and the money transfer agents like Western Union and Money
Gram-usually charge 10 to 20 percent of the principal amount to handle the
small remittances sent by the migrant workers.
Still, Smart's innovative idea has become a trophy for the advocacy of these
multilateral agencies.
"The system's (Smart remittance service) simplicity keeps fees down. (and
it) appears to be secure," the World Bank said.
The system goes like this: A Filipino migrant worker in Hong Kong deposits
his money to one of Smart's affiliate remittance partners, giving the
beneficiary's 16-digit Smart Money and the Smart mobile phone number. A
message would then be sent to the beneficiary in the Philippines informing
him or her about the remittance from Hong Kong.
The remittance can be credited to the Smart Money subscribers' "electronic
wallet" account. The money can then be withdrawn from an automated teller
machine (ATM) using the Smart Money card. The recipient can also get cash
from Smart's partner companies in the Philippines.
Smart's partners include fast food outlets like McDonalds, pawnshops
operated by Tambunting, 7-11 convenience store chains, and Shoemart
department stores.
Both the sender and the receiver of the money will be charged to as low as a
percent of the amount sent or received. If combined with the cost of text
message sent, the fees can hit to about five percent of the principal or the
total amount of money the sender plans to send.
Fees vary per country.
For instance, in Hong Kong, it is about US$2 for the sender. For remittances
within the Philippines, Smart charges one percent of the amount to be sent
and the cost of the text message, which is a minimum of P2.50.
* *
*Security itch*
EACH of the sender using Smart's remittance service is given two sets of
personal identification numbers: one PIN for the cell phone and a different
PIN for the Smart Money account.
According to the WB, doing so makes it difficult for unauthorized access to
the funds. Plus, an identification card is required when collecting the
The country's central bank, however, only allows up to P50,000 (about
US$930) worth of remittances, which can also decrease risks of theft.
Smart's introduction of this service debunked the concept that only banks
and remittance agents can do the job of sending money from one country to
Still, smaller nonbank financial institutions don't have the backing that
Smart has from parent Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).
According to the WB survey of 40 countries around the world, these
institutions face challenges in entering the remittance market that Smart
has broken into. These challenges include securing licenses for transactions
involving foreign exchange and access to national payment.
The WB cited that monetary authorities in some countries generally believe
giving nonbank financial institutions direct access to central banks'
clearing and settlement systems may not help reduce the remittance fees
charged by these institutions.
"Only five countries-Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bolivia, the Philippines, and
Thailand-are contemplating granting access for clearing and settlement
systems to a few large non-bank financial institutions, mostly post
offices," the WB said, referring to the survey.
Ironically, Smart's banking affiliate First E-Bank, has not reported profits
from the service. But since the bank was bought by Banco de Oro Universal
Bank, this gives edge to its rival Globe, which is owned by the Ayala Group
of Companies that owns Bank of the Philippine Islands, the country's second
largest bank.
Globe, to note, had been first to form a tie-up with several remittance
partners in the United States, in order to compete head-on with Smart in the
remittance service arena.
It will be only a few months before these two mobile phone operators device
another way to tap into the OFW market.
*OFW Journalism Consortium, Inc.*

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Domain administrator still hopeful on '.ph' resolution

By Alexander Villafania INQ7.net

DotPH, the administrator of Philippine domain name .ph, continues to be hopeful that the ownership debate on the disputed domain name will finally come to a resolution.

In an emailed response to a previous INQ7.NET story, DotPH representative Emil Avanceña said the company has the same goal as its critics, “a robust, efficient and competitive .PH domain.”

Avanceña was responding to a statement by Commission on Information and Communications Technology Chair Virgilio Peña on one of the conditions for the possible re-delegation of the .ph domain -- the satisfaction of .ph domain owners.

This condition was set after Peña talked to the president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Paul Twomey, in the recently held World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

Citing their records from September to December 2004, Avanceña stressed that their .ph name server uptime for the last four months was 99.6 percent.

“We are confident he will find that our clients are satisfied with the services we provide and that there is no basis for re-delegation,” Avanceña said in his e-mailed response.

The .ph spat has been going on for the last four years after various IT groups and some clients lobbied for the re-delegation of .ph away from DotPH to a democratic body.

DotPH owner Joel Disini has been unyielding to calls for re-delegation.

Monday, December 12, 2005

PLDT firm pushes distance learning via satellite

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva, INQ7.net
MABUHAY Satellite Corp., a company owned by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), will push more satellite services, starting with distance learning using satellite technology next year, an official told INQ7.net.

Quietly launched a month ago, Mabuhay Satellite's e-learning service is now being used by computer school AMA to broadcast lectures from Metro Manila to more than 100 campuses nationwide, said Ramon Fernando, director for sales and marketing of Mabuhay Satellite Corp.

AMA has been using the Internet to broadcast lectures to its students in other parts of the country. However, the Internet proved to be slow in transmitting video.

As providers of satellite services move from just selling "bandwidth" to selling services, Fernando said that Mabuhay Satellite would be providing more value-added services for different clients wanting to take advantage of distance learning via satellite.

He said that the cost of doing distance learning via satellite is still expensive. However, the price of the terminals used to receive broadcasts is going down.

Mabuhay Satellite said that it would partner with AMA computer school, which would provide the facilities, such as the receiving stations, that others can rent, he said.

Both Mabuhay Satellite Corp. and AMA are still negotiating how they intend to package this service.

The cost of using satellite services for one day ranges from 300,000 to 500,000 pesos, Fernando said. If schools or private organizations are able to get more people to use the service, the cost could go down, he added.

"We're working with AMA as a partner in the delivery of distance learning services," the executive said.

Mabuhay Satellite is also looking into to selling distance learning services via satellite to other markets, such as the pharmaceutical industry and government.

The company is also planning to offer Internet connections via satellite for remote areas in the country.

"Satellite technology is often misunderstood. People don't know that it can now be used for telephony and other services, apart from broadcasting," the executive said.

Mabuhay Satellite, which is partly-owned by a group of Chinese investors, has mostly telecommunications firms as clients. In the Asia Pacific region, its biggest client is Indonesia.

Got a problem? Take a photo

By Tarra V. Quismundo, Inquirer

TIRED OF SEEING garbage on the road? Are you bothered by the sight of open manholes or vendors who block traffic by hawking their wares on sidewalks? Then take a picture and send it to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

Beginning next year, residents in the metropolis who own a cellular phone equipped with a camera can shoot pictures of any situation or problem they encounter on the road and forward them to the MMDA for action.

"This is one way of communicating with our citizens. The whole idea is to involve [the public] ... As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words," said MMDA general manager Robert Nacianceno.

The new mobile phone feedback service, to be launched in January, is an upgrade of the agency's present feedback system which allows the public to send their complaints through text messaging or by calling up 136, the MMDA hotline.

"We are now developing the system. We have already set it up, and we are testing it internally first among our directors, and how we could refer the message to the proper department upon receipt," said Nacianceno.

Once available, motorists and commuters can forward their complaints, ranging from delinquent MMDA traffic enforcers, flooded streets to mounting piles of trash, to the agency using the Multimedia Messaging Service feature of their cellular phones.

Nacianceno said the MMDA was still working on a mechanism that would inform senders of the action taken on their complaints.

The mobile phone feedback service system was also undergoing more tests to ensure that computers processing the picture messages would not crash when deluged with multiple messages.

The MMDA has also talked with officials of telecom firms Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular about their possible involvement in the new feedback service system.

PLDT plans to offer Internet-TV service

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Leading telecommunications firm Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) is seriously considering jumping on the triple play bandwagon via IP television, a fast growing service that merges the Internet and television, in order to penetrate the growing video market in the country.

IPTV or Internet protocol television is a system where digital TV service is delivered to subscribing consumers using IP over a broadband connection. This service is often provided in conjunction with video on demand and may also include Internet services such as Web access and voice over Internet protocol (VoIP).

IPTV is expected to grow at a brisk pace in the coming years both in the Asian region and worldwide as broadband is now available to more than 100 million households. Many of the world's telecommunications providers have either gone into or are exploring IPTV as a new revenue opportunity from their existing markets and as a defensive measure against encroachment from more conventional cable TV services. IPTV also serves as an alternative terrestrial, satellite, and cable TV.

PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan expects that IPTV will be a fast growing business in the Philippines, owing to the continuous growth of the broadband market and a large base of tv service subscribers.

"Like 3G, IPTV can lead to full digital deployment of products and services. Through IPTV, we will be able to deliver high definition TV for the AB market," he said.

PLDT has been investing heavily on its net generation network (NGN) to be able to deliver more efficiently and cost-effectively not only voice, but also data, and in the near future, video. Bulk of its fixed line investments starting next year will be in NGN.

Triple play, the biggest thing in fixed line telco, involves offering voice, video, and data as an integrated service bundle. The active element of triple play, IPTV, has been giving long-suffering telcos worldwide a new lease on life, as it has helped reduce churn, challenging cable players and helping reclaim voice minutes lost to mobile. A lot of telcos have invested heavily in their networks and are now trying to get a return by offering more video and data, banking on IP TV to boost their broadband subscriber base and generate new streams of revenue.

With PLDT's fixed line debts reaching more manageable levels (down to $1.4 billion by year-end, or half of its $2.8 billion level in 2002), company officials said PLDT's ability to invest in the next generation network (NGN or the IP network that would enable PLDT to deliver not only voice but also data and video to its subscribers), as well as in fixed and wireless broadband initiatives, has been enhanced.

Pangilinan, in an interview, said PLDT is now looking at various possibilities. "We have to reassess what our approach will be on the video business because new technologies are developing that could actually negate the advantage of existing technologies that are placed on the cable TV platform, new technologies that are more versatile, less expensive," he explained.

Compared to cable TV and satellite TV, Pangilinan said IPTV may be a better and cheaper approach to delivering content to the homes.

The PLDT chairman's optimism about IPTV prospects seem to have been largely influenced by the success of Hong Kong incumbent PCCW, which launched its NOW TV service across its DSL lines in September. 2003 and has since become something of a poster child for IPTV. In early 2003, PCCW was losing 27,000 lines a month to its competitors. By March this year, after the launch of NOW and its next generation fiber services, that was down to 6,000. PCCW now has around 450,000 IPTV customers.

"We'd like to see what accounted for the success of PCCW in Hong Kong. They have a video service on their broadband and they were very successful," Pangilinan said.

PCCW funds some of its own content, including a 24-hour news channel, and uses its own broadcast facilities. As for PLDT, following its failed attempts to acquire broadcasting companies ABC 5 and GMA 7, Pangilinan believes that acquiring content should not be a problem even without PLDT having its own content producer like a TV station.

This new wave of TV-related innovation called IP-TV is just starting to reach consumers. Just as the service known as voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is poised to revolutionize the phone business by offering a low-cost Internet alternative to traditional phone service, IP-TV could bring Internet-style interactivity and flexibility to the TV set.

Over the next decade, the long-hyped notion of "video-on-demand" is expected to become commonplace, allowing consumers to watch what they want, when they want to. They'll be able to control their IP-TV service remotely through a PC or a cell phone. And they'll be able to personalize their content, whether they want to watch a basketball game or home movies.

Reason for skepticism however abounds. Over the years, a number of Internet-TV efforts such as Microsoft's WebTV have come up short. However, IP-TV projects are already under way worldwide, courtesy of big phone companies in Canada, Europe, Asia, and some rural companies in the US.

According to analysts, if IP-TV takes off, it will provide much-needed new opportunities to traditional phone companies that have built their businesses around wire lines. Besides losing customers to cell carriers in recent years, they've been losing out to cable-TV companies that are producing their own phone and Internet services. In many regions worldwide, cable providers have grabbed 30 percent of the traditional phone customers.

IP-TV gives the phone companies a way to stop the bleeding. Over time, IP-TV could put the phone companies back on the offensive. Cable outfits have spent billions of dollars in recent decades to build their high-capacity networks, which can deliver hundreds of channels to each household. But for the most part, everyone gets the same offerings, with few variations

Analysts point out IP-TV can match that basic model, despite the fact that one can actually receive only the program they choose – not the other 200-plus channels that the cable system sends to the set-top box. With the right networking gear, it takes just milliseconds for a viewer to call up a program while channel surfing – so fast most viewers won't notice the lag.

On top of that, the Net's inherent ability to be interactive could give IP-TV providers an edge. Using Microsoft's software, one company in the US plans to allow customers to set up their personal channels for things like slideshows of digital pictures.

In the US, phone giants like SBC and Verizon plan to deliver their signals using IP TV. While cable companies broadcast all their channels at once to the TV, blocking those that aren't paid for, with IP TV, SBC and Verizon will deliver only programs that viewers request. That essentially makes a limitless amount of content available, just as there's no cap on the number of Web sites

Sunday, December 11, 2005

NBI raids computer shops for using pirated software

The Philippine Star
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) served three search warrants and confiscated 32 computer sets from two computer shops in Metro Manila for using pirated computer software on Friday.
Some 20 agents of the NBI-Intellectual Property Rights Division (IPRD), raided the Jacctags Computer Service, located at Unit 90-C and Unit 90-D Anonas Street, East Kamias, Aurora, Quezon City; and the Archisoft PC-911 Sales and Service at the second level of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) North Mall, Rizal Avenue Extension, Gracerpark, Caloocan City.
NBI agents seized 29 computers and 19 compact discs containing illegal Microsoft software programs from the two Jacctags stores while three computers were taken from PC-911 store. The total cost of the items reached P1.07 million.
The NBI would file copyright infringement and unfair competition charges against the owners of the establishments.
NBI-IPRD head agent Jose Justo Yap said the raid was in compliance with the Pilipinas Anti-Piracy Team‘s (PAPT) campaign against software piracy which started Sept. 16.
In 2004, software piracy in the Philippines was pegged at 71 percent. Microsoft alone has reportedly lost P3.7 billion to piracy.
The NBI agents served the search warrants issued by Executive Judge Antonio Eugenio Jr., of the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 24, at around noontime on Friday. The warrants were based on the complaint of the Business Software Alliance (BSA), an organization dedicated to combating software piracy.
Yap said they conducted a surveillance on the subjects upon receiving a complaint from the BSA that the establishments were using pirated software. After confirming their suspicion, they immediately secured the necessary warrants.
In an earlier raid on computer shops last Nov. 24, the NBI also seized 286 computers worth P10 million from three branches of a popular chain of Internet cafes located in shopping malls in the metropolis.
Yap said the computer units of at least three branches of Excel, owned by Expressions Center for Learning (ECL), reportedly contained unauthorized reproductions or copies of unlicensed Microsoft software programs. — Evelyn Macairan