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Philippine telcos to face closure or expropriation

Ranine Awwad

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Philippine telcos to face closure or expropriation

“Kindly improve your services before December 2020”, warned Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. On July 27, 2020, and during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representative in Metro Manila, the president called on operators, Telecom Globe and Smart Communications to improve their services otherwise he will order a government takeover. “I might just as well close you and we revert to the line telephone,” Duterte said in his speech.

The President also emphasized his commitment to improving the telecommunication services, as he will be the one to articulate the anger of the Filipino people, according to CNN Philippines. The president expects to spend the last two years of his term on improvements of the country’s telecommunications without the help of the two major players, he said.

Philippines suffers from poor telecommunications and internet services. President Duterte states that telecom companies are not progressing fast enough in the development of their services. “Don’t make us wait 10 years for services other countries are enjoying. Go and look for capital”, said the President, according to Total Telecom. In response to Duterte’s call, Telecom Globe said it has embarked $1.2 billion for network and capacity building, according to Total Telecom. The two major telecom providers seem to agree with the President’s call for action.

Telecom operators in the Philippines could expect their revenues to increase by nearly $650 million by 2025 due to the rollout of 5G, states a new study carried out by the American global management consulting firm Kearney. The introduction of 5G network will result in 50 times higher internet speed in the country, states the study. Despite having the highest social media users in the world, Philippines is ranked 107 in terms of mobile internet speed.

In the past, threats have worked to speed up the process to improve telecommunication services. In fact, in 2018, the President wanted to introduce a new company to the Philippines telecom market. In 2019, Mislatel Consortium, recently named DITO Telecommunity, has been officially introduced to the market. However, it is expected to launch commercial operations by 2021.

According to Speed test Global Index, mobile download speed is around 16.17 megabits per second compared with the global average of 34.6 Mbps. According to Inquirer. Net, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said during an interview “Even in the senate sometimes we have a teleconference talking about telcos and we could not hear each other because the signals are very poor”. Moreover, Senate Panfilo Lacson states that the President spoke the truth about companies’ performance, according to the same source.

However, not all senators agreed with the President’s threat to telecom operators. Senator Grace Poe emphasized the importance of accelerating the process of license approvals.” National agencies and local government should step up so that approvals for at least 25 regulatory permits won’t take 6 months”. Globe’s senior vice president, Yoly Crisanto avowed that the permits were the cause of delay, according to Total Telecom.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto sees that improving services would only happen if there was competition. Thus, government expropriation is not the solution.

The president’s decision could affect the telecom industry, the economy, as well as the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. The threat of government expropriation of telecom companies could drive away foreign investments.

Ranine joined Inside Telecom as an Investigative Journalist. Her extensive fieldwork and investigations shed light on many socio-economic issues. Over the past few years, she has transformed her key findings into in-depth analytical reports. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication.

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5G and cybersecurity challenges in the aviation sector

Ranine Awwad

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5G and cybersecurity challenges in the aviation sector

The aviation industry has become more digitalized. Thus, the dependence on technology has engendered more cybersecurity risks. In December 2018, Finland Helsinki Airport became the first 5G airport in the world. This achievement came out after a collaboration between the Swedish Telecom provider Telia and the Finnish airport operator Finavia. However, aviation cybersecurity is becoming more and more complex with emerging technologies like the 5G network, according to Security Boulevard.

The adoption of the fifth generation technology would improve the passenger’s experience. Moreover, 4G technology can manage around 10, 000 devices per square kilometre but a 5G network can manage a million, according to the National. The high-speed Internet will facilitate communication between aircraft and their ground control system. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global 5G in the aviation market size is expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2026.

With an increasing demand for connectivity, providing a 5G network at the airport becomes crucial. Finnish Telecommunications Company, Nokia, has been collaborating with Belgian mobile operator Citymesh aiming to enable the use of 5G at Brussels Airport by the end of March 2020. However, many challenges arise when talking about the deployment of the 5G network across the aviation market. ImmuniWeb report entitled “State of Cybersecurity at Top 100 Global Airports” states that “97 out of 100 world’s largest airports have security risks related to vulnerable web and mobile applications, misconfigured public cloud, Dark Web exposure or code repositories leaks”.

Airports have suffered from different cybersecurity attacks such as DDoS attacks or incidents in which hackers stole building plans and sensitive security protocols, states Trip Wire.

In 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has shed light on the consideration of emerging cybersecurity challenges in the aviation industry. The report states that the aviation sector will suffer from cyberattacks amid the digitalization process. Cybersecurity threats in the aviation sector are difficult to detect and control resulting in economic losses, and negative impacts on passenger’s experience. According to ‘Building cyber resilience in airports’ report published by PA Consulting, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said that 1,000 attacks on aviation systems happen each month.

5G will increase the entry point for attackers. The UK Civil Aviation Authority CAA has launched the Assure Scheme aiming to strengthen the aviation industry’s cybersecurity resilience.

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5G subscriber growth in South Korea

Karim Hussami

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5G subscriber growth in South Korea

As long as countries improve their telecoms infrastructure and enhance their offerings in mobile services, internet and wireless, they can expect to generate more subscriptions over time.

The latest 4G and 5G networks are getting the most subscribers especially in light of plans for wider deployment. As of late, 5G mobile subscribers have exceeded 7 million in South Korea in June, according to reports.

The reason behind this rise is South Korea’s ambitious efforts to offer the fastest mobile service, which began in April last year, in parallel with the anticipated increase in the number of 5G subscriptions later this year after the launch of new phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20.

As such, 10 percent of the country’s 69.6 million mobile subscriptions in total is represented in the latest figure. As shown by data compiled by the Ministry of Science and ICT, the country had 7.37 million 5G users as of June – up 493,101 from the previous month.

The government said in a statement, “Local operators had already deployed over 115,000 5G base stations across the country.”

South Korea has the highest number of broadband users today.

SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+ are Korea’s three main telecommunication companies with the first having the most 5G subscribers at 3.35 million, followed by KT Corp. at 2.24 million and LG U+ at 1.78 million.

The world’s first commercial 5G network rolled out in the country on April 3, 2019.

The three operators vowed last month to invest up to 25.7 trillion won to speed up improvements to 5G services and install a nationwide network by 2022.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic delaying telecom investment plans for the year, the steady growth in 5G users comes as the country pushes for the network’s wider deployment.

Although 5G is being implemented efficiently with these advanced services resulting in additional users, the 4G network has 55 million subscriptions and represents roughly 80 per cent of total mobile accounts.

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Videotron suspends international calls charges after Beirut explosion

Ranine Awwad

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Videotron suspends international calls charges after Beirut explosion

Lebanese citizens living in Canada will not have to worry about long-distance call charges. On August 6, 2020, Videotron, a Canadian communications company announced in a press release that it has suspended charges for calls from Canada to Lebanon until August 23, 2020. This move came to allow Videotron customers to reach out to their friends and family after the Beirut port explosion.

Videotron states that a long-distance call in Canada is free and unlimited. However, the company has several international calling plans. For calls to the Middle East including Lebanon, a Canadian Customer will pay $1.64/ minute for calls to a mobile phone, and $1.62/ minute for a call to a landline, according to Videotron website. On the other hand, the overseas long-distance calls scheme costs $5 per month. Under this option, a customer can make up to 10 minutes of calls to the Middle East.

Customers do not need to contact the company to make a free call to Lebanon. Videotron international charges to Lebanon are automatically canceled for all residential, business, and mobile accounts.

In 2019, Videotron’s total revenue was over 3.47 billion Canadian dollars. The company has already provided free services for its customers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, data caps on Videotron residential and business plans were suspended between March 13 until June 30, 2020. Furthermore Videotron suspended charges for the Daily Traveler Pass and canceled roaming charges for travelers outside Canada to help its customers until they were able to return home, according to the company’s website.

Canada has been home to many Lebanese people who decided to immigrate to secure jobs, healthcare, and a future for their children. Many Lebanese students are living in Canada to pursue their university studies. Videotron’s decision is crucial for Lebanese Canadians who are worried about their relatives after the Beirut blast that happened on August 4, 2020.

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