Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

DepEd to start nat'l assessment of ICT for basic education

By Alexander Villafania, INQ7.net

THE DEPARTMENT of Education (DepEd) has said it will be conducting a national impact assessment and monitoring program of information and communications technology (ICT) to gather quantifiable information on ICT use in basic education in the Philippines.

The department added that it will work with the non-government organization Partners in Learning (PIL) to conduct the assessment. Program results are expected to help the DepEd fine-tune its ICT integration plans in basic education curricula.

Apart from PIL, the program’s participating coordinators include the Philippine Normal University, Cebu Normal University, University of the Immaculate Concepcion, Southeastern College, and the Center for Teacher Excellence Cebu.

Private sector partners include the Philippine Business for Social Progress, Learn.ph, Softrigger Solutions, and QSense.

The DepEd has already started training teachers who will be conducting the assessment in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The teachers will come from 44 public high schools where the assessment is to be conducted, officially starting in March.

The DepEd has been mapping out plans to integrate computer-assisted education in the Philippines to increase the overall awareness of ICT in schools as well as to retool teachers with new teaching methodologies.

Smart launches 3G in selected key cities

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star

Leading wireless services provider Smart Communications Inc. announced yesterday the opening of its 3G or third generation mobile technology network in selected key cities nationwide, making it the first and only mobile operator in the country to currently offer 3G services to the public.

Smart also revealed that there are already plans to leverage the company’s worldwide alliance with countries using the I-Mode service (which includes NTT DoCoMo of Japan which has just acquired seven percent of Smart parent Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.) in a bid to bring down the prices of 3G handsets, which are still in the over $300 range.

"Handset prices are a function of volume. If we can leverage this worldwide alliance together with NTT DoCoMo and we order our 3G handsets together, then the price of handsets will definitely go down. But even before this alliance, we expect handset prices to decline in the next couple of months. The more 3G becomes mainstay and more people use it, the better for handset prices," Smart’s head for wireless consumer division Menardo Jimenez Jr. revealed.

Smart and NTT DoCoMo earlier agreed to cooperate in the rollout of 3G services in the Philippines and have also agreed in principle to introduce DoCoMo’s mobile Internet service, "I-Mode", to Smart subscribers. NTT DoCoMo has 20 million subscribers to its 3G services.

"The addition of DoCoMo as a strategic partner will certainly enhance our ability to develop attractive 3G offerings for our market. DoCoMo’s experience in this technology is unmatched," PLDT and Smart president Napoleon Nazareno said earlier.

With the soft launch of its 3G network, Smart prepaid and postpaid subscribers with 3G-capable handsets can start enjoying Smart 3G services on a free trial basis. Through 3G, subscribers can make video calls, video streaming, high-speed Internet browsing, and special 3G content downloads. However, text messaging, multi-media messaging service (MMS), GRPS or general packet radio system, IDD and voice calls as well as downloading of regular content will follow Smart’s existing rates.

The launch comes less than a month after Smart and Nokia signed an agreement for the supply of 3G networks technology equipment and services, including the supply of 3G radio access and core network equipment.

The new service also comes less than two months after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) awarded Smart its 3G frequency.

Commercial launch by Smart of 3G is expected to happen within the first half of this year.

"This is another first from Smart. Simultaneous with our rapid 3G network rollout nationwide, we are taking our 3G commitment to another level by allowing our subscribers to experience for themselves as early as now this new technology," Nazareno said.

For his part, Jimenez said: "We are pleased to offer Smart 3G to our subscribers as an exciting addition to our wide array of existing 2G services. On top of video-to-video calls, our subscribers can also have a taste of content that includes video clips of popular shows, news reports, short films, movie trailers, and the like. Making the service available to our subscribers on free trial basis is our way of preparing the market for the more exciting applications that will eventually come with the technology."

Jimenez revealed that content is going to be a strong driver for the acceptance and popularity of 3G, even as he disclosed that Smart is already in talks with entertainment companies and other content providers." But of course, video calling is going to be a killer application," he said.

He also noted that while data-heavy postpaid subscribers will be the initial market of 3G, the number of prepaid subscribers with 3G phones is also high and will also be a potential market.

3G is shorthand for the next generation of mobile communications networks running on the WCDMA (wireless code division multiple access) platform. This technology allows for faster data transmission speeds, making possible high-speed data communications and mobile multimedia services such as video conferencing, audio streaming and mobile Internet.

Apart from having a postpaid or prepaid Smart SIM and a 3G-capable handset, a subscriber must also be in an area with a Smart 3G coverage to enjoy the service.

"We’re speeding up the pace of our network rollout. Todate, we already have 3G presence in key areas in Metro Manila as well as in major cities nationwide. And we expect our 3G network rollout to be as fast as we did in 2G," according to Smart’s network services division head Rolando Pena.

Smart officials disclosed that over 100 cellsites are now with 3G presence and as of 10 a.m. yesterday or two hours after the soft launch, around 60,000 to 70,000 Smart subscribers were already hitting the 3G network. "This is just the beginning. We are not even in the first phase," Jimenez, for his part, said.

Among the areas where 3G has a presence are Metro Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Boracay, Baguio City, and Davao.

Smart expects to spend around $300 million for the 3G network rollout, about $60 million of which will be spent this year and next year.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Next Mobile to roll out mobile network in three years

Next Mobile Inc. plans to complete in three years its nationwide rollout for the operation of its mobile-phone service in the country.

On January 3 the National Telecommunications Commission granted the company’s provisionary authority to install, operate and maintain a nationwide mobile telecommunications system as well as offer services and charge rates.

Lamberto S. Ramos, Next Mobile president and chief operating officer, said the company proposes to deploy a multiaccess network that is equipped to provide mobile service through Manila-based mobile switching centers. The switching centers will handle the traffic in the National Capital Region, Rizal province, North Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The company also plans to deploy 144 base stations in Metro Manila, 39 in Northern Luzon, 41 in Southern Luzon and 41 in Mindanao. The remaining 20 base stations will be deployed in locations with in-building coverage requirements.

Next Mobile said the initial build-up of the proposed mobile service will be done in three stages. The company will also upgrade and expand its existing transmission network infrastructure to serve the transport requirements of the proposed mobile service in the metropolis and Luzon.Darwin G. Amojelar, abs cbn

Google used to promote project to connect RP public schools

By Erwin Lemuel Oliva, INQ7.net

A PHILIPPINE-based project to promote information technology literacy among high school students has recently made use of Google to advertise its efforts.

Typing either "Filipino," "ICT," or "computers" into the Google search bar produce an advertisement for the Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students or "GILAS" program.

GILAS is a recent beneficiary of Google Grants, which offers free advertising space to selected non-profit organizations on google.com. Through this Google program, GILAS was provided in-kind keyword advertising to help the project attract people to their website.

Google Grants provides keyword advertising to help non-profit organizations attract a specific target market.

"We hope to direct traffic to the GILAS website [www.gilas.org]," Julia Andrea Abad, GILAS consultant, told INQ7.net.

She said that Ayala Foundation USA facilitated the negotiation between GILAS project proponents and Google.

Gilas's objective involves connecting all 5,500 Philippine public high schools to the Internet by 2010. GILAS has already helped connect over 700 public high schools nationwide.

With Google's help, Abad said, GILAS aims to generate more public awareness of and support for its efforts by directing more traffic towards their website.

Google.com is currently one of the five most popular sites on the Internet and is used by millions of people around the world.

7 web sites used to pimp Pinays on Internet named

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago named yesterday seven web sites used by Philippine-based promoters or "chathosts" in selling live sex performances by Filipina "cybermodels" on the Internet.

Santiago identified the sex web sites as www.imlive.com, www.clickmelive.com, www.streamray.com, www.streamate.com, www.mycamfriends.com, www.privateams.com and www.cams.com.

"We conducted background check. We are positive there are hundreds of Filipino women registered in these sites and are offering live sex shows on the Internet to international clients, mostly from the U.S. and Japan," Santiago revealed

The Filipino cybermodels are maintained by local promoters or "videochat hosts," Santiago, former chief of the National Telecommunications Commission and House transportation and communications committee vice chairman, revealed.

"By maintained, it means the women are lodged in groups of four or five in posh condominium units, mostly in Metro Manila and Central Luzon, are given free board and other necessities, and are supplied with computers and web cameras," Santiago said.

"The sites are run by American or Japanese managers. They charge $1.99 to $2.99 each from registered members or users," Santiago said.

Initially, Santiago said, models engaged in the activity hold videochat with clients. The hosts charge $1.99 a minute. If the clients ask the model to undress or perform lewd acts, charges will go up.

A model can entertain several customers at a time or perform for a group chatters from around the world simultaneously. However, a customer may choose to take the woman for a private show where he will pay higher charges.

The U.S. or Japan-based site managers collect from their clients through pay-first membership credits, mainly through credit cards or mailed checks. Anyone with a credit card can register for membership to obtain credits online.

The managers keep 60 to 70 percent of the proceeds, and remit to the Philippine-based promoter or "videochat host" the rest of the proceeds.

The Philippine-based "chathosts," who, in effect act as pimps, collect 30 to 40 percent of the profit, and hand out to the women their share of the proceeds.

Each model usually generates an average of $1,000 to $2,000 a month, 60 or 70 percent of which go to the managers.

Santiago urged the National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to crack down on the local promoters, saying these illicit activities demean Filipino women, as he expressed concern that promoters may have already lured underaged girls as models.

"We were told that there are actually a number of syndicates operating in the country, including one allegedly run by a Filipino operating in Quezon City and another by a gang of South Koreans operating in Subic, Zambales," Santiago said.

Last year, Santiago bared that illicit cybersex promoters may have lured over 200,000 Filipinos -- women, men and possibly even children -- to the trade based on the registry of a popular web site, www.adultfriendfinder.com that pedde sexual activities over the Internet.

For the past two years, authorities have busted dozens of so-called cybersex dens in Angeles City, Baguio City, Zambales, La Union, Manila, Las Piñas City, Quezon City, and Davao City. Peoples Journal

US Congress grills Internet firms over China clampdown

WASHINGTON: US Internet giants will come under unprecedented grilling in Congress this week for joining hands with China to censor the Internet, despite the proud American tradition of free speech.

Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Cisco Systems have agreed to appear on Wednesday before a House of Representatives human-rights panel, which summoned them following public outcry over their compliance with Beijing.

By complying with China’s demand for censorship to enter the booming Chinese market, some of the top American Internet firms in essence have become “a megaphone for communist propaganda and a tool for controlling public opinion,” said Chris Smith, who will co-chair the hearing.

The Republican Representative from New Jersey, who heads the House subcommittee on global human rights and international operations, is drafting legislation imposing curbs on Internet companies seeking to expand into China.

“I think a lot of members will be supportive of the legislation,” Smith’s spokesman Brad Dayspring told Agence France-Presse.

Some lawmakers accused the American firms of helping Beijing build the “Great Firewall of China.”

“Our message to the Chinese is, ‘When you build a wall to oppress your people, can we sell you some bricks?’” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who introduced legislation last week to downgrade US trade ties with China.

This is the first time the companies will testify at Capitol Hill over the muzzling of Internet information in China. Two weeks ago, they snubbed a Congressional caucus meeting, which had no subpoena power.

State Department officials have also been summoned to explain Washington’s stand on the issue at the one-day hearing, entitled “The Internet in China: A tool for freedom or suppression?”

Search giant Google and top computer software maker Microsoft have admitted cooperating with Beijing to censor websites.

Leading portal operator Yahoo allegedly assisted Beijing authorities to track down and jail a journalist and cyber dissident, while Cisco’s technology-savvy machinery is reportedly used to censor Internet messages and track cyber dissidents.

The companies have defended their decisions as being for the public good, saying that reform will come more quickly in the communist nation if they are able to continue doing business there.

Google said it had to strike a balance between compliance with local laws and its corporate mission to make information accessible.

“While removing search results is inconsistent with Google’s mission, providing no information [or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information] is more inconsistent with our mission,” Google senior policy counsel, Andrew McLaughlin, said.

“Many agree that there is truth to what the Internet companies are saying,” said Bart Mongoven of Strategic Forecasting Inc. (Stratfor), a private US intelligence firm.

First, he said, the companies already faced local competition from a home-grown Internet search engine/portal, which blocked content or exposed user-account details at government request without a fight over civil liberties.

But in order to get the same compliance from a Western Internet company, Beijing has to coax, cajole or threaten it, and the resulting controversy in the West is not in China’s interests, Mongoven said.

“At the very least, the presence of American web companies irritates the Chinese government, because it places its political tactics on public display,” he said.

The congressional hearing could set the pace for legislation compelling Internet companies to locate e-mail servers outside “repressive countries” and prohibit the export of Internet technology to these countries.

“The hearing is going to give Internet companies a chance to testify before Congressman Smith puts the final touches to the legislation,” Dayspring said.

But laws regulating the activities of Internet companies should only be a last resort, cautioned media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, suggesting instead a code of ethics that upholds freedom of expression.

For example, if US companies sell Internet censorship software to repressive states, they would have to incorporate a list of “protected” keywords rendered technically impossible to censor, said Lucie Morillon, the group’s Washington director. --AFP

Through e-centers, remote communities gain access to digital world

UPI, Maguindanao. – Everyday after school hours, students mill around the community e-center (CeC) here. For only P20, roughly equivalent to a 13-kilometer jeepney fare, they can reach the farthest corners of the world or perhaps wander through the most popular tourist spots in Europe or the Carribean islands.

For 15-year-old high school student Shamera Nasim, P20 is all it takes to "transport" her to Saudi Arabia. "I always finish my research work as fast as I can so I will have time to spare talking to my mom," says Shamera, whose mother is an overseas worker in the Middle East. Shamera has not seen her mother for two years, and misses her sorely. But with the e-center, P20 goes a long way toward bridging the mother-daughter separation.

CeCs are facilities where, for a minimal fee, the public can access various information and communications technology services such as web browsing, email, voice service, and fax service. These centers serve as community libraries, points of access to distance education, business service centers, local, regional and international news services centers, and portals for various government services.

The e-centers, which look like Internet café cum business centers, have enriched the learning experience of students in the area who previously had access only to antiquated library materials. They have also augmented the resources provided by US Agency for International Development (USAID) to two schools in Upi. The Upi Agricultural School and the Nuro Central Elementary School, respectively, received ten and five Internet-connected computers, bundled with useful peripherals, through the USAID’s Computer Literacy and Internet Connection (CLIC) program. Selected teachers from these schools have likewise received computer skills training.

South Upi in Maguindanao province is considered as one of the underprivileged municipalities in the country. Although even basic necessities and standard infrastructure are lacking, the range of amenities available to local residents are expanding.

"The Upi CeC won 6th place in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Digital Opportunities Awards in 2005. The awards are given to outstanding projects on the advancement of computerization of both the government and the private sectors," says engineer Paulo Cagara, chair of the ICT Council, which manages the e-center.

The municipality of Upi is the site of the first (CeC) in the country. Launched in October 2004, the Upi CeC has made progress in making lives more comfortable for the Maguindanaoans, according to Cagara.

The e-center is a government and private sector partnership, and since its operations began, the people of Upi have enjoyed speedy communication services through facsimile and email, as well as reduced phone bill costs by using the new local telephone system. Most government employes, who previously had to travel to Cotabato City to have their documents processed by the Government Service Insurance System, can now apply for loans online.

The e-center also had a significant impact on local businesses. Business people, who had limited contact and little access to markets outside the municipality, can now arrange efficient domestic and overseas transactions through the CeC.

In fact, locally made baskets made by the indigenous Teduray tribe are being sold internationally through the Internet. Thanks to technology, product information on these baskets are posted in the local government unit’s website.

The USAID-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program, which implements CLIC, is also instrumental in efforts to "wire" the previously inaccessible municipalities throughout Mindanao, especially in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In Upi, the GEM program provided technical support and assistance in configuring CeCs’ equipment. The local government, led by Mayor Ramon A Piang, Sr., allocated a computer set and a room for the CeC as counterpart.

In Malungon municipality, a predominantly rural community located in Sarangani province, technology has also made a stopover. Although only 23 of 31 barangays have access to power, an e-center was created as evidence of strong resolve to make Mindanao an ICT hub. Malaya

Industry experts call for reforms in country’s telecom services sector

By EDU H. LOPEZ, Manila Bulletin

The Philippines must develop and institute in the soonest possible time a new program of reforms that will lead to fundamental changes in the policy framework governing the telecommunications services sector in the country.

This was stressed by Telecommunications consultant Cesar D. Castro, president and principal consultant of consulting firm CD Castro Consultancy, Inc. (CDCCI), in a speech he delivered before the 2006 Pacific Telecommunications Conference (PTC), an annual gathering of telecommunications leaders and ICT experts from all over the world.

His paper, entitled "Connecting Filipinos and the Philippines to the Rest of the World," was one of the country’s case studies presented at the conference held recently at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Castro said these reforms must also lead to significant improvements in its legal and regulatory environment and must strengthen even further the sector’s competitive structure.

"With developments in information and communications technology (ICT) and the fast growing use of the Internet, new reforms for this sector have become imperative. Without these reforms, the nation’s aspirations for economic growth and social progress may be hindered."

"Whatever gains that may have already been achieved can be lost.

The world is quickly shifting to the new digitally networked economic order where connectivity and access to information are the critical keys to success," said Castro.

He pointed out that the Philippines can not afford to be left behind by other nations and economies and see its competitiveness in both local and global markets affected adversely.

Castro said that one of the priorities of the reform program must be the strengthening of the nation’s regulatory body for telecommunications and ICT, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

Another priority must be the passage of a new law to replace Republic Act 7925, the law that now governs the development of telecommunications and the provisioning of public communications service in the Philippines.

Castro stressed that the new law should embody anti-trust provisions to assure the protection of all the sector’s stakeholders.

A new reform program, similar to what was started in 1986 right after the People Power revolution, should now be planned and implemented in the soonest possible time in order that significant improvements and more fundamental changes in the sector can be achieved sooner than later.

Castro’s 2006 PTC presentation focused on the successful experience of the Philippine in liberalizing and restructuring its telecommunications services sector in the past.

The Philippines, under this reform program, was able to introduce a new competition policy that has benefited consumers, subscribers and users in the country.

Castro cited the dramatic increase in the telephone density — number of telephones, fixed and cellular, in the country per 100 inhabitants — of the Philippines from 1.51 in 1981 to an estimated teledensity for 2005 of more than 45.0.

Despite this already impressive performance by the Philippines, other countries in the region have attained more over the same period.

Castro also recalled that while those reforms were initiated in 1986, they started to manifest significant changes and to show real improvements in the environment only after about a decade of relentless work and with government and the private sector working very closely together.

He also presented his proposed road map towards the accelerated and rationalized building of the nation’s digital infrastructure. This IP-based infrastructure is the new "logical backbone" of the nation’s economy.

As one of the private sector leaders who have actively participated in the reform program in the mid to late eighties, Castro now says that the active and full participation of the private sector, the engine of development, is still a basic requirement for success.

On the hand, government, he emphasized, must not just let the private sector carriers plan and implement on their own nor should government invest and build the needed infrastructure.

Instead, government must take the lead role in the development of a master plan for the building by the private carriers of the next generation and the broadband access networks needed to ensure cost-efficient connectivity to all Filipinos regardless of where they are, who they are, and who they need to reach and communicate with.

This is necessary in order that the plans and projects of the different telecommunication carriers in the country can be further rationalized and their building processes significantly accelerated. At the same time, the atmosphere of healthy and efficient competition among them must be maintained and even enhanced.

Castro warns that the Philippines may soon be reaching a point where its national leaders and policy makers may already take the position that with almost half of the population either owning or, at least, able to access telephones, fixed or mobile, new reforms in the telecommunications services sector are no longer needed.

Castro was one of the industry leaders from the private sector who actively participated in the first round of reforms that started right after the People Power revolution.

He was president of the industry association, the Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation (PETEF), for three consecutive terms.

Castro sat in the Cabinet-level National Telecommunications Development Council (NTDC) where the first reform program was first discussed and later developed.

He has been an active participant in the policy making, the planning process, and the review of current developments in telecommunications in the country since the late sixties.

And he led the group that worked on and completed in the late nineties the Policy Framework Plan for the Philippine Information Infrastructure (PII).

RP cellular penetration rate seen at 40% as of end-2005

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star

The country’s cellular penetration rate is estimated to have reached between 35 and 40 percent as of end-2005, meaning that much of the total Philippine population owns mobile phones.

Gartner, an international research company, has earlier projected that mobile connections in the Philippines will grow at a 6.5 percent compound annual growth rate through 2009. Service revenues will grow at 6.4 percent compounded annual growth rate through the forecast period, it said.

A highly placed official of leading mobile operator Smart Communications told The STAR that the 35 percent to 40 percent takes into account those holding multiple SIMs. "I am discounting the figure with multiple SIM holders which account for about 20 percent of the base. So roughly, 10 percent should be removed," the official said.

Smart subscribers are expected to reach 20.4 million as of end of last year, but this still does not take into account the figure for multiple SIM holders.

As of end-September 2005, Smart and its subsidiary Pilipino Telephone Inc. (Piltel) reported a combined subscriber base of 20.8 million. Earlier, Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno said the company is expected to post real growths in subscriber numbers beginning this year after the company has completed the process of weeding out subscribers which have not been topping-up and therefore, not contributing revenues to the company.

Top rival Globe Telecom has already reported a 12.4 million subscriber base as of Dec. 31, 2005, or the same as the end-September 2005 figure or lower than the end-2004 number of 12.5 million.

Digitel president Lance Gokongwei meanwhile told The STAR that the end-2005 subscriber number for their Sun Cellular brand will likely remain at 1.7 million.

Total subscriber base for the three mobile operators will likely reach 34.5 million, without discounting the 10 percent for the multiple SIMs, for a mobile penetration rate of 39 percent given a Philippine population of 87.8 million.

Less the discount for the multiple SIM, industry subscriber base will be around 31 million, or a cellular penetration rate of 36 percent.

Smart and Globe both said they were able to fully weed out non-revenue generating SIMs by end-2005. The SIM-swapping activities of the two companies, which they terminated middle of last year, unnecessarily bloated subscriber numbers as they were counting as subscribers even those who had multiple SIMs that were not being topped up. Once a SIM is sold, it was considered as part of the subscriber numbers.

Globe president and CEO Gerardo Ablaza said they have not yet made projections for the cellular penetration rate for this year. "We have not finalized that projection yet. We should first see how the first quarter of 2006 goes as that would be the first full quarter after the SIM clean-up," he informed The STAR.

Ablaza has noted that 2006 will be a challenging year for the mobile telecommunications industry, especially with the entry of new players offering 3G services "which may change subscriber behavior and the market landscape."

Aside from Globe, Smart, and Digitel, CURE was granted 3G frequency by the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC). CURE has reportedly tied up with ISM Communications, which now owns majority of Eastern Telecommunication Phils. Inc. (ETPI). The NTC is also set to award soon the last 3G frequency either to BayanTel, Next Mobile, Multi-Media, AZ Communications or Pacific Wireless.

He added that in order to remain competitive, Globe has to continue offering better propositions to its customers that would increase usage and the average revenue per user (ARPU). "We hope to build on our fourth quarter momentum," he said.

Gokongwei for his part agrees with the view of top officials of rivals of Smart and Globe that market growth this year will be difficult.

Morgan Stanley earlier downgraded PLDT from "over-weight" to "equal-weight" with a target price of P1,830 per share after a strong rally in the company’s shares over the past two years. It said that while the firm’s fundamentals remain good, there is limited room for positive surprises in future as the mobile phone market has matured and because there is risk that consumers may prefer voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services rather than using mobile phones.

It said it prefers Globe Telecom to PLDT, but given the low liquidity in Globe shares, Morgan Stanley recommends telecommunications investors to shift to other issues in East Asia. An "equal-weight" call indicates that the stock’s total return is expected to be in line with the total return of the country’s MSCI index on a risk-adjusted basis over the next 12 to 18 months.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) has expressed confidence that it is taking the right steps in developing new revenue streams, especially in the landline business, that could more than offset slower growths in the cellular business.

In another development, in its bid to increase mobile phone usage and maintain market loyalty, leading wireless services provider Smart Communications has further made texting more affordable and budget-friendly to its prepaid users with its latest offering.

Smart Load All Text 10, which will be sold at the suggested retail price of P12 or lower, will give subscribers 10 text messages (SMS) and P1 worth of airtime while Smart Load All Text 20, which will be sold for P23 or lower, will give them 20 SMS and P1 airtime.

As an added innovation, the 10 or 20 SMS do not expire and may be accumulated, so subscribers may use them anytime they want. Subscribers may also use them for texting other networks. The P1 airtime load, however, will expire after one day for Smart Load All Text 10 and two days for Smart Load All Text 20.

Subscribers have to maintain at least P1 airtime load to use the SMS. "This is part of Smart’s wide range of innovative and affordable load packages designed to address the diverse communication requirements of our subscribers," according to Butch Jimenez, Smart head for wireless consumer division.

Aside from the non-expiring text, prepaid subscribers who top up for the Smart Load All Text will enjoy free overnight texting from 11 p.m. to 7a.m., during the 30-day promo period from Feb. 12 to March 13, 2006.

One day of free overnight texting will be given to those who will get Smart Load All Text 10. For those who will get Smart Load All Text 20, two days of free Overnight Texting will be given. Smart Buddy, Talk ’N Text, Smart Kid Prepaid and Addict Mobile Prepaid subscribers may purchase Smart Load All Text from SmartLoad retailers.

"We are committed to providing our subscribers with even more cost efficient telecommunications services," Jimenez added.