Friday, 4 December 2009

PLDT readies ‘broadband over power lines’

By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said it will be ready to launch, in six to 12 months, its landmark “broadband over power lines (BPL)” service, seen as a new technology that will fast-forward the growth of Internet use in the country.

The BPL technology is a by-product of the PLDT group’s acquisition of a controlling stake in Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest power distributors.

The new technology, as its name suggests, will allow PLDT to efficiently bring broadband services to virtually all of Meralco’s 24 million customers concentrated in Metro Manila and nearby areas at a minimal cost.

The technology will allow the company to deliver Internet services to households using Meralco’s network of power lines in Metro Manila.

PLDT chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said tests for the BPL technology in parts of Malabon, which started in July, have been on-going.

“I’ve seen what the [BPL] can do, and it seems to be doing fine,” he told reporters earlier this week.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Pangilinan said, adding that a more widespread roll-out of the service would be realistic in six to 12 months.

Despite the popularity of online gaming and social networking sites in the country, Internet usage in the Philippines is still far from being as widespread as it is in neighboring countries in the region.

Only one in every five Filipinos has access to the web, as compared to other Asian countries like Korea and Singapore, where almost everyone is online.

PLDT is the country’s largest telecommunications provider with nearly 40 million people subscribed to its “telephony” or voice and text messaging services—a far cry from its nearest rival Ayala-led Globe Telecom, Inc., which has only 25 million.

However, PLDT has only about a million broadband subscribers.

Meanwhile, Pangilinan said this would mean a new income stream for Meralco since the power firm would be getting paid to have its power lines used to deliver the Internet services, even if it was for its sister firm.

“Meralco will provide the highway for the broadband signals, so Meralco will get paid for its services,” he said.

PLDT, its employee pension fund and another Pangilinan-led firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), directly and indirectly own a combined 41.4-percent stake in Meralco.

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