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More competition, please

I RECEIVED a letter last week that caused a fair amount of anxiety.

“Welcome to Globe, your new home!” said the letter that came in the envelope that usually carried my monthly bill for Bayantel’s broadband service.

For about 10 years now, I’ve been a reasonably satisfied Bayantel customer. Their broadband service wasn’t the fastest or the cheapest, but it was reliable, and when something went wrong, customer service was responsive—and quick.

Now, I never signed up to move to my “new home,” but sometime in July 2015, Globe Telecom Inc. bought Bayan Telecommunications Inc. for P1.83 billion and took full control of my service provider.

If anyone from Globe is listening, here’s some unsolicited advise. Your letter to Bayantel customers needs some work, even though it promises “an exciting time” that will enable me “to experience a new world of wonder.”

“Here’s a glimpse of what you can anticipate as part of our family,” the letter continued cheerfully.

• A whole new digital lifestyle. Soon, you’ll have access to NBA LEAGUE PASS, and see more games live and on-demand on all your devices.

• More flexible options for customer support. Our various self-service channels will allow you to enjoy quality customer care at your fingertips anytime, anywhere.

• State-of-the-art Globe stores to serve you. You’ll be able to pay bills and apply for new lines at Globe Stores nationwide, and our Generation3 (Gen3) stores will give you a taste of our world-class retail experience.

First, I do not need a new digital lifestyle. I don’t particularly care for NBA League Pass or want to view games live and on demand on all my devices.

Second, I don’t want flexible self-service channels. I want to be able to pick up the phone and call a hot line that doesn’t make me sit through 30 minutes or more of recorded commercials before a live operator becomes free to talk to me. And once the service personnel is on the line, I’d like an assurance that they can fix my problem within 24 hours.

Third, I don’t really care about state-of-the-art stores or world-class retail experiences. When I pay my bill, I’d like to see really short lines that move quickly.

As far as I’m concerned, Globe’s welcome letter to me struck out on all three tries. Instead of all this marketing BS, I wish they’d talk to me about things that matter; tell me my broadband service will become faster and more reliable that they’re not going to suddenly jack up my rates. Assure me that customer service will become even better, not “more flexible.”

That’s something I think all Bayantel customers would rather hear.

Regardless of how this will all turn out, the buyout of Bayantel really does nothing to enhance competition—in fact, it reinforces the duopoly that has hardened around Globe and Smart Communications Inc.

With only two competitors in the market, it is customers who must bear the brunt of poor service and high rates.

Comparative data bear this out.

A third quarter 2015 report by content delivery service provider Akamai Technologies shows that among 15 Asian countries, the Philippines, with an average Internet connection speed of 2.8Mbps, was ranked No. 14 – faster only than India, which had an average connection speed of 2.5Mbps.

For a moment, there was hope that a third big player would challenge the duopoly, but that hope faded this month when Telstra backed out of talks with San Miguel Corp. to invest $1 billion to build a new mobile network to compete with Smart and Globe.

Australia-based Telstra said it abandoned negotiations with San Miguel because of the lack of an acceptable “risk-reward balance,” adding that the two companies were “unable to reach commercial arrangements” over their prospective joint venture.

Late last year when talks began, Telstra Chief Executive Andrew Penn described telecommunications services in the Philippines as “lousy.”

“Go the Philippines and experience for yourself the sort of lousy service you get from the incumbent operators and you will see that the opportunity there for a new operator to provide a much better quality service,” he said at the time.

Sadly, it seems, we are stuck with lousy service—and no real competition--for now. Chin Wong

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com

Topics: Chin Wong , More competition , Globe Telecom Inc. , Bayan Telecommunications Inc.
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