MANILA, November 13, 2003  (MALAYA) By RACHELLE FRIGINAL - Within the next two years, more than one-third of the country's population or 26.5 million will own at least one cellular phone each according to Globe Telecom Inc. president and chief executive officer Gerardo Ablaza Jr.

At present over 20 million or 25 percent of the total population are cellphone subscribers.

Ablaza was more upbeat than rival PLDT president's forecast that by 2005 teledensity rate will be at 25 percent.

Penetration rate or telephone density rate is the percentage of people using mobile phones or landphones against the total population of the country.

As of September, leading wireless provider Smart Communications Inc. of PLDT, has slightly in excess of 12 million subscribers with Globe having 8.1 million subscribers.

Third player Digital Telecommunications Inc.'s Sun Cellular has yet to formally disclose total number of subscribers.

Industry sources estimate that Sun has 300,000 subscribers at present.

Smart leads the market with a 58 percent market share, along with sister firm Pilipino Telephone Co.'s Talk 'N Text brand, with 13 percent share.

"For 2005 it's probably going to be 33 percent. This year we will probably end at the 25 percent penetration, so somewhere in between those two numbers would be for 2004," Ablaza said.

Ablaza noted that the lower cost of acquisition for both pre-paid and post-paid will attract more subscribers.

Globe has always been conservative in creating low denomination of prepaid loads because of its effects in the ARPUs, as compared to rival Smart's e-Load service where subscribers can avail of P30 to P115 loads in sari-sari stores.

Pangilinan meanwhile believes that the cellular market will reach its saturation point beyond 2005.

"I do not see any reason why the wall cannot be pushed back. Smart's mission is to keep pushing that wall back to the maximum extent it can. Smart continues to exceed expectations and is set to push back the so-called saturation point of cellular penetration rate in the country," he said.

The company sees the rural section as a lucrative market for cellular phones, after it reached its peak in the urban areas like Metro Manila.

The NTC earlier said that the growth rate for cellular market continues to rise tremendously as it continues to surpass that of the fixed line market.

"High rates and the boom of the cellular market are the factors behind the low turn out of the fixed line market," the NTC said.

According to an NTC study, rather than subscribe to fixed line services, Filipinos now opt to purchase a cellular phone over a landline, which offers less flexibility in use and expense.

Cellphone subscribers are also attracted by the numerous services offered by Globe, Smart and their affiliates.

"The pricing scheme of mobile phone firms was effective. Competitive rates drove consumers to drop their landlines and purchase a cellphone instead. That is why the mobile phone industry experienced a boom in 2000 when the subscriber base reached 6 million and doubled the following year. Business in the landline service, on the other hand, weakens despite the prepaid landline service already introduced by PLDT and Globe," the regulatory body explained.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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