With increasing tourist arrivals in Palawan, demand for high-speed internet connection has likewise increased, prompting the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) to roll out an P861-million cable project to meet the need.
The project, which became operational last month, involved 620 kilometers submarine fiber optic cables linking Palawan to the rest of PLDT’s nationwide network backbone. PLDT units Smart and Sun Cellular subscribers benefit from this new network.
“The network boost helps both locals and foreigners visiting the many attractions in Palawan to have a more enjoyable stay in the famous island-destination,” said Orlando Vea, chief wireless advisor of Smart Communications and president and chief executive officer of Digital Mobile Philippines.
“This will hopefully help further boost tourism and other businesses in the province,” he added.
In a statement, Palawan City Tourism Officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao said: “We are excited about this development because as you know social media help a lot in promoting our local tourism. With this roll-out, we could now get free advertisement in an instant through the photos taken by our visitors, which they subsequently share via social media.”
Currently, Palawan receives about a million visitors a year, with about 40 percent of them being foreign tourists looking for restful vacations spots.
The cable project is part of PLDT’s aggressive nationwide expansion of its fiber optic network, which now spans more than 78,000 kilometers.
The roll-out in Palawan uses state-of-the-art fiber optic inland and submarine cables that run from Puerto Princesa to Taytay in Palawan, and San Jose de Buenavista to Lapaz, Iloilo City.
In 2004, Smart built the first microwave-based backbone for Palawan, which used microwave radio to transmit voice and data. This enabled Smart subscribers in the province to use multimedia messaging and mobile internet on their wireless devices, aside from voice calls and text.
Before the microwave backbone was built, the province was connected via VSAT or Very Small Aperture Terminals, which were more costly and had much less bandwidth.
The Palawan local tourism board welcomed the development, highlighting that internet access is a service valued by both local and foreign tourists.
“We all know they have a high standard in terms of wireless technology, and now that Palawan has access to high-speed wireless data services, these tourists won’t think twice about coming back and recommending the place to their friends back home,” Amurao said.
Over in Manila, meanwhile, a lawmaker has called on telecommunications companies to explain the slow but expensive internet connection in the country.
Sen. Bam Aquino, chairman of the Senate committee on trade, commerce, and entrepreneurship, is seeking an inquiry to find out if consumers are getting their money’s worth from the telecommunications companies.
The senator cited reports that the Philippines has the lowest average internet speed in Southeast Asia.
Based on Asean data, the Philippines’ internet speed (3.6 megabytes per second) lags behind Laos (4.0 mbps), Indonesia (4.1 mbps), Myanmar and Brunei (4.9 mbps), Malaysia (5.5 mbps) and Cambodia (5.7mbps).
Vietnam has a speed of 13.1 mbps and Thailand, 17.7 mbps. These are the only other two Southeast Asian nations joining Singapore (61 mbps) that have Internet speed above the Asean average of 12.4 mbps.
The senator wants to determine why some neighboring countries in Southeast Asia enjoy faster Internet speed at a much cheaper price.
“There are constant complaints about the provider’s failure to deliver on its promised connection speed, which usually leads to slow internet link,” the senator said.
On average, consumers shell out about P1,000 a month for internet service with speed of up to two megabytes per second, while some telecommunication companies offer speed of up to 5 mbps for about P2,000 a month.
“This is expensive compared to Singapore and Thailand where we can find some of the fastest internet connections in the world,” Aquino said.
Singtel, the largest telecommunications company in Singapore, offers 15 megabytes per second of Internet speed for 36.90 Singapore dollars or around P1,312 a month (P87 per mbps).
Thailand’s True Internet, for its part, provides 12 mbps of connection for about 799 baht or P1,100 (P92 per mbps).
“Do we always have to pay a steep price for slow and sometimes unreliable Internet connection? NTC should provide a logical and clear explanation,” Aquino emphasized.
The senator added that the investigation should look into ways on how to improve the country’s poor Internet connection, which is crucial to the country’s economic growth