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Globe’s interconnection woes

One of the most common complaints one hears in the past few months from subscribers of Globe is the alleged poor service of the Zobel-Singapore Telecom controlled telecom company. But if you listen closely to what the Globe subscribers are griping about, you would find that their principal problem is the fact that text messages they send are received hours and sometimes even a day later or not at all. They also grumble about difficulties in making calls. If you point out to disgruntled Globe subscriber that their problem is only with calls and text messages sent to the subscribers of the PLDT-controlled network–Smart and Sun - they begin to realize that the problem is not with Globe Telecom.  Rather, the problem is rooted in the long-running interconnection problem of Globe with the former telecom monopoly. The fact is that Globe Telecom service has been improving immensely as it nears completion of its massive $800-million network modernization program. The improved service, however, as far as the public is concerned, is negated by the continuing problem of delayed transmission of text messages and the difficulty of connecting to non-Globe networks. The government agency that regulates the telecom industry, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), has given both Smart and Globe passing marks in its latest mobile network benchmarking for the parameters set by the commission. The two major telecom networks were given passing marks in five parameters: blocked calls, dropped call rate, signal strength, signal quality and call set-up time. So it would appear that the source of the problem of disgruntled Globe subscribers is not so much the services of Globe but rather the interconnection between Globe and the PLDT-controlled networks. The issue came to a head when Globe Telecom, in a related issue, cited the long history of the refusal of PLDT to fully interconnect with it despite numerous orders from the NTC and court decisions ordering them to do so. Globe head of National Carrier Relations Division Melvin Santos has in fact written a letter to NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba asking NTC to compel PLDT to fulfill interconnection commitments to Globe, particularly in the provinces. In his letter, Santos said: “Local interconnection with PLDT has been pending for years now despite orders from the NTC and public inconvenience.” He stressed in his letter that only 11 out of the 32 candidate areas for interconnection have been accommodated by PLDT for activation. The interconnection issue has been long the subject of legal dispute between Globe and PLDT as well as PLDT and other telecommunications companies. Globe legal counsel Rogelio Salalima cited the Supreme Court cases Republic of the Philippines vs. Republic Telephone Co. in 1996 and Republic of the Philippines vs. Express Telecom Co. in 2002 as examples of PLDT either refusing interconnectivity agreements outright or connecting with them but using outlying linkages to block calls. Salalima pointed out that in the Extelcom case, despite NTC’s order that PLDT interconnect with Extelcom, PLDT opposed the issuance of Extelcom’s license and claimed that the NTC abused its authority in mandating interconnection.  Even after the Supreme Court ruled against and affirmed the NTC’s jurisdiction and mandate, the interconnection between PLDT and Extelcom did not happen. PLDT/Smart Communications of course denies that there is a serious interconnection problem with Globe. PLDT/Smart Public Affairs head Mon Isberto cited the January 16, 2013 incident where Sun’s engineers detected a sudden rise of text messages that were being delayed or failing to arrive. The Sun engineers found no problem in the Sun-Globe interconnection and they alerted their Globe counterparts who said they will look into the problem which, instead of improving, worsened. Isberto said that Smart and Sun have separate interconnection links with Globe and neither was having technical problems at that time. He also pointed out that SMS traffic within Sun and Smart and between the two PLDT controlled networks had no interruption at that time. Of course, Globe spokesmen could have also pointed out that there is no problem in transmission of text messages within the Globe network and the fact is it is the Globe interconnection with Smart and Sun that was and continues to be problematic. Interconnection problem is not unique in the Philippines. This is a problem in many countries which have made a fundamental shift from monopolistic to a multi-operator environment, The monopoly, or in the Philippine case the telecom oligopoly, will do anything and everything to stunt the growth of its competitors and one way that this can be done is to make interconnection difficult. Much depends on NTC to make sure that the dominant telecom company does not suffocate its emerging rival.
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