Globe Telecom, in the Philippines is currently transitioning from WiMAX to LTE. In this interview Francisco Claravall, VP for Consumer Broadband Products tells us about the challenges it faces of doing so and how the company is looking to innovate as it does so.
You can hear more from Claravall when he takes part of a keynote panel session, and gives a presentation on Day One of the 9th annual LTE Asia conference, taking place on the 23rd-25th September 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
What are the major challenges that you believe you will face over the next couple of years?
The Philippines has a lot of potential, not just in the area of broadband but as a nation. With economic growth still moving at a higher pace than most of our neighbours, the Philippines is a good growth story.
Recently we’ve had a major typhoon that hit us, and who knows how the environment will fair in the years to come. One challenge we need to address is disaster-preparedness, how quickly can we respond and reduce customer downtime.
The other challenge we see is how strategically can we evolve as a company to be at the centre of the digital life of our customers? This is all about moving beyond dumb pipes and becoming more relevant to our customers’ day-to-day activities.
As you migrate from WiMAX to LTE, what, if any, are the key differences between the technologies and how you can market them?
From a customer’s standpoint, we don’t really market the technology per se, but rather the experience. A customer would see a broadband service as the same, whether that’s DSL, GPON, LTE, or WiMAX. The only major difference for WiMAX is the limitation on the speed we can offer.
From our point of view, LTE is obviously more future proof, and streamlines our operations as you have one infrastructure for both the mobile and fixed broadband business.
Do you see the demand for mobile outpacing that for fixed lines in the future?
If we look at the adoption of smartphones and tablets, then demand-wise, yes, mobile is ahead. Add to the mix the Philippines being an archipelago; rolling out a mobile broadband network is quicker. However, fixed broadband has a specific albeit important niche, and in dense urban cities we will continue to invest in it as it provides us with the best technology to serve customer needs.
What are the keys ways operators can innovate to avoid ‘dumb pump’ syndrome?
One of our learning in this space is that while we can innovate internally and roll out our own value-add services, partnering with the big Internet companies (like Facebook, Spotify) has shown to be a good strategy.
How are you working with third parties and developers to make this happen?
A couple of years back we had started our own venture fund called Kickstart Ventures, which is an investment firm helping digital tech startups operating in the Philippines build robust businesses and technical foundations, and to scale. It puts big company resources – capital, facilities, expertise, and business connections – behind startups we fund so they can launch faster and achieve scale and profitability sooner.
What are you most looking forward to with regard to the LTE Asia conference?
I would be interested to see how our peers have been doing in the LTE space, how they’ve handled the challenges of migration and operations, as well as the new technologies being deployed today. I also look forward to networking with people in our industry as this can start building potentially good business relationships in the future.