GOOD  NEWS  FOR  OFWs:  SMART COMMUNICATIONS  GOING GLOBAL  WITH  PLDT 

MANILA, August 23, 2004 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - Leading mobile operator Smart Communications is going global, beginning with Hong Kong where it is offering starting next week together with PLDT Global its cellular phone service via a reseller agreement with HK CSL, one of Hong Kong’s leading wireless provider.

Smart and PLDT Global’s innovative offering, called 1528 Smart, gives Filipinos in Hong Kong access to their favorite Smart mobile services and content. These include Smart Money, Smart Load, Smart Pasaload, and Smart Padala, the world’s first text-based remittance service. These Filipino OFWs can also make long distance calls to the Philippines and send text messages at rates that are cheaper by as much as 50 percent than what they usually spend using foreign networks.

"It effectively establishes a virtual presence for Smart and PLDT Global in Hong Kong, a historic OFW (overseas Filipino worker) bastion," PLDT and Smart chairman Manuel Pangilinan told The STAR.

Smart is a 100-percent owned subsidiary of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) while PLDT Global is the international consumer arm of PLDT.

This early, PLDT Group officials revealed that talks are already going on with foreign wireless service providers in countries with strong OFW presence to offer the Smart brand also through reseller agreements. "It’s a matter of finding a parner in these countries," an official said.

"Smart together with PLDT Global officials revealed that talks are already going on with foreign wireless service providers in countries with strong OFW presence to offer the Smart brand also through reseller agreements. "It’s a matter of finding a partner in these countries," an official said.

"Smart together with PLDT Global brings to the table a wide array of strengths and expertise in forging future international partnerships. Smart leads the Philippine wireless market with its forte in brand building and its innovations in mobile commerce particularly in micro payments for prepaid top ups and consumer cash remittances," Pangilinan said.

Hubert Ng, CEO of HK CLS Ltd., said their company is proud to be a partner of Smart and PLDT Global in this innovative venture and is glad to bring to this undertaking its considerable infrastructure.

A PLDT official told The STAR that aside from being one of the most forward-looking wireless providers in Hong Kong, CSL is also aware of the fact that partnering with Smart and PLDT Global is the best way to penetrate the Filipino market in Hong Kong.

PLDT and Smart president and CEO Napoleon Nazareno said PLDT Global seeks to serve the huge and as yet untapped OFW market by providing cost-effective mobile services enriched with significant value-added service offerings. "Its points of presence (POPs) in countries where OFWs abound is particularly valuable to the partnership," he said.

For his part, Anastacio Martirez, head of Smart’s personal communications and mobile services division, pointed out that with the birth of 1528 Smart, OFWs in Hong Kong and other parts of the world can now avail of the same award-winning Smart wireless innovations on their cellphones without expensive roaming charges.

He said that characteristically ‘Pinoy’ content and innovative services such as Smart Load (in denominations of HK $10, 20, and 30), Smart Pasaload (in HK $2, 5 and 7) and soon Smart Padala are also more meaningful and relevant to the OFW subscriber.

Flanked by a ‘Kahit Saan, Ang Tawag Sa Pinoy…Smart’ slogan, the 1528 Smart wireless service will now be available to OFWs abroad, as though they never left the Philippines, says PLDT Global president Al Panlilio.

According to officials, with 87 percent of the estimated 180,000 OFWs living in Hong Kong owning mobile phones, the 1528 Smart wireless service certainly has the potential to serve them directly, especially since most of these are prepaid subscribers.

Market trends show that the HK OFW market is predominantly voice call users – whether for calls within the Filipino community in Hong Kong or overseas to the Philippines. It is also common for these HK OFWs to send ‘load,’ known to them as recharge, from their handsets to the mobile phones of their relatives and friends back home.

Panlilio said 1528 Smart will spell unprecedented savings for the OFWs, since they can take advantage of the most affordable IDD rate to the Philippines anytime of the day be it to a landline or mobile network, as well as the lowest SMS charges to their hometown. The new Smart product is also the only one in Hong Kong wherein OFWs can receive free 24-hour customer service from fellow Filipinos.

All content will be Pinoy-based, bringing to homesick OFWs all the latest happenings and trends from home. Aside from calling and texting, they can also download Pinoy news, Bible verses, music, and SSS updates.

"All the Smart world’s first are now available to OFWs in Hong Kong. And with the 1528 Smart wireless service ready to be introduced in other countries, OFWs abroad can expect more great things ahead from the Philippines’ leader in wireless technology and innovation. This is merely a sign of things to come. And it’s probably the next best thing to bring back home," Martirez told The STAR.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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