Wireless leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) expects smartphone usage in the Philippine to rise sharply in 2012 given the growth momentum established late last year. According to Smart Chief Wireless Advisor Orlando B. Vea, the company has seen a doubling of the number of subscribers using smartphones in the last four months of 2011 due to the growing demand of mobile Internet and increased availability of devices.
“Our subscribers have responded very well to our attractive and innovative smartphone offers campaigns, particularly in the second half of the year. At the same time, our network modernization program which is far ahead of the competition, is already delivering a superior mobile internet experience to our subscribers today,” Vea said.
From end August to end December 2011, Smart has noted a steep rise in the use of the top three mobile operating systems in its network. Google’s Android tallied the highest increase with a 300% spike, followed by BlackBerry with 66%, and Apple iOS with 62%. The figures were culled from a series of one-day snapshots of Smart’s network taken every month. “The growth of iOS is significant given that Smart started offering iPhones only last December 2011,” Vea noted.
In mid0-2011, Smart launched the affordable Netphone 701, followed by the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy Y Netphone edition which feature Google’s Android mobile operating system and the SmartNet suite of applications.
SmartNet allows subscribers to check on their balance in real time, chat with other Netphone users for free, and to search and add contacts from the cloud. Sales of the Netphone, particularly the Galaxy Y Netphone edition, have been robust since the already affordable handsets were marketed bundled with attractive voice and data plans. This device plan combo has been doing particularly well in the “first time smartphone user” market segment.
In December, Smart further diversified its smartphone portfolio started by offering the popular Apple iPhone 4S. Going by its slogan of “Everyone deserves an iPhone”, Smart also offers the iPhone plans which start at Plan 999—the lowest and most affordable iPhone plan in the Philippines.
Also included in Smart’s roster is the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy Note “phablet” (phone + tablet) which is free at Unlimited Data Plan 2000. This year Smart kicked once again bolstered its lineup with the first smartphone which runs on Android 4 “Ice Cream Sandwich) OS, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Like the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Nexus is available for free, exclusively from Smart, at Unlimited Data Plan 2000.
Better, bigger network
Vea adds that the increase can also be attributed to the company’s network modernization efforts. “We are encouraged with the results: on one hand, it shows that demand for Internet-capable phones has risen and on the other, that Filipinos want to get the most out of their devices by going with Smart, said Vea. “Filipinos have taken notice of our improved network and the numbers prove it,” Vea added.
Vea refers to the P67.1 billion peso network transformation program currently being undertaken by Smart and parent company Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). The original 3 year program which was launched in early 2011 has been fast-tracked and is scheduled for completion by the middle of this year.
Upgrades include installing additional fiber optic cables to speed up communication between cell sites and the core network, the opening of new international gateways for improved transnational connectivity, and utilizing Single Radio Access Network (Single RAN) antenna for easy deployment of fourth generation (4G) technologies such as High Speed Packet Access Plus (HSPA+) and Long Term Evolution (LTE). LTE is shorthand for the most advanced 4G wireless technology called Long Term Evolution which is capable of speeds of 100 Mbps and above. High Speed Access Plus (HSPA+) is a 4G technology that can deliver speeds of up to 80 Mbps.
Prepared for the future
“Smart’s wireless network will be completely LTE-ready in a few months’ time. This means that we will be able to make available next-generation high speed services depending on market demand,” Vea said. “It is an opportune time as well especially with the lot of LTE handsets set to become commercially available this year,” he added .
Meanwhile, PLDT Technology Group Head Rolando G. Pena is banking on the new Carrier Grade Wi-Fi which will be deployed later this year to help encourage smartphone use among Filipinos.
“WiFi is a very popular wireless broadband technology given the fact that a growing number of mobile and portable devices are WiFi-enabled,” said Pena. “Once we make WiFi connectivity available both indoors and outdoors, anyone will get to maximize the capabilities of their smartphones and tablets and enjoy the power of the Internet wherever they go,” he ended.
For the complete list of smartphones available from Smart, visit: smart.com.ph/store or go to the Smart Wireless Center nearest you.