PROJECTION:  HALF  OF  RP  POPULATION  WILL  HAVE  CELL-PHONES  BY  NEXT  YEAR

MANILA, November 2, 2004 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - The country’s cellular penetration rate could easily exceed the 45-to 50-percent mark by next year, which means that about half of the population will be owning mobile phones by then.

To date, the mobile penetration rate stands at about 38 percent which makes cellular phones easily the communication tool of choice compared to a seven-percent penetration rate for landlines whose number stands at 6.6 million.

As this developed, the PLDT wireless group, which includes Smart Communications and Pilipino Telephone Inc. (Piltel) reported that its subscriber base has already reached the 17 million mark to date, The STAR learned.

Combined with Globe Telecom’s 11.7 million cellular subscribers as of end-September 2004, this means that there are now around 29 million Filipino mobile phone users. Based on initial projections, the combined subscriber base of the country’s two leading wireless companies could reach over 31 million subscribers by yearend.

A 50-percent country penetration rate means that of the 84.6 million Filipinos (July 2003 estimates), about 42 million will be owning cellular phones by next year.

Globe Telecom president and chief executive officer Gerardo Ablaza said that they were earlier projecting the country’s cellular penetration rate to reach 45 to 50 percent by 2005. "But we are still reviewing our projections, because the actual figures have always exceeded our expectations," he pointed out.

The PLDT group projects the number of its wireless subscribers to exceed 18 million by yearend.

Meanwhile, Gokongwei-owned Sun Cellular could easily register a million subscribers by the end of the year.

Last June, the subscriber base of PLDT’s wireless group which includes Smart and Smart subsidiary Piltel exceeded 16 million.

On the one hand, PLDT group chairman Manuel Pangilinan pointed out that the company never looks at the projected total penetration rate nor projects one for Smart and Piltel because the limits are endless.

Sources earlier revealed that Smart added one million subscribers during the third quarter of 2004. Meanwhile, more than a million could be added during the last quarter of the year.

The same sources said PLDT could end the year with more than 18 million mobile phone subscribers, from around 13 million at the end of 2003.

PLDT is targeting a 2004 net income of P22 billion, double that of last year, on the back of Smart’s continued stellar performance, Pangilinan said.

During the first half of 2004, PLDT’s net income reached P12 billion, against P1.8 billion in the same period last year.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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