During a press briefing with one of the local telcos last week, the question of minimum speed was again raised by one of the members of the media. NTC has also released a memorandum circular to that effect but I think the issue will continue to linger.
The answer to the question was a bit vague but they promised they’ll do their best to provide it. So, why telcos cannot and will not guarantee minimum 3G (mobile internet) speeds?
Well, there are actually many reasons, both technical and financial in nature, that prevents telcos to guarantee a minimum speed (take note the reasons are for mobile internet only).
- Nomadic Nature of 3G Users. Mobile internet users are always moving around and as such, the density of users in specific locations at specific periods of time will vary. This means certain base stations may be congested while others are not.
- Coverage of Cellular Base Stations. Thousands of base stations are spread across the country to maximize the spread of 3G coverage but that’s not yet 100% fully covered. Last time I heard, they have 98% reach of the population (not area) of the country. That’s just cellular reach, which means GPRS, EDGE and 3G combined. My bet is that less than 50% of the population has 3G coverage so they still have a long way to go.
- Bandwidth Cost & Provisioning. To guarantee a minimum bandwidth means they need to buy more international bandwidth. That minimum speed might not cover the Php999 monthly fee users pay for unlimited mobile internet. I also discussed here the true cost of guaranteed speed.
- Geography and Topography of the Philippines. The country’s geographic make-up and the topography of each island is so different, it’s a bit harder to set-up towers and get it to maximum efficiency. Our land mass is not as small as Singapore and Hong Kong so telcos need more resources (so much more I guess) to blanket the entire archipelago with a 3G network.
- Extraneous Factors. Extraneous factors such as weather and other interferences that affect signal quality (let’s not even talk about the NPA that regularly bomb cellular base stations just to get revolutionary taxes).
- Simple Economics (Law of Supply and Demand). Telcos will never invest in a location where demand for their services are low, sparse or non-existent. That’s the reason why you cannot get any 3G signal in Batan Island in Batanes. The demand is too few to justify putting up one.
If and when the carriers are required to provide minimum 3G speeds, I am sure they will find a way to circle around it. Just read the fine print. Requiring a minimum 3G speed will be a blanket provision (the odds are stacked against them) and they know it will be a losing proposition. I think, and this is just my personal opinion, that NTC memo will not fly and the commission should just look at the quality of customer service first.
My suggestion is that if they can’t make the guarantee, just make it more affordable.
It’s a different story altogether if we talked about fixed-line broadband but that discussion is for another time.