MANILA, May 16, 2005
 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes -  The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has granted separate motions filed by Smart Communications and Globe Telecom to subject their networks, as well as that of Digitelís Sun Cellular to an independent test to determine compliance with NTC rules on service quality standards and to address the issue of traffic congestion.

Smart and Globe had wanted Digitel to share in the cost but the latter opposed. Thus, the cost of the third-party audit of all three networks will be divided between Smart and Globe, both of which are confident that their networks will pass the test.

The inspection is in connection with complaints filed by Smartís Pilipino Telephone Inc. (Piltel) and Globeís Innove Communications against Sun Cellular for failure to comply with minimum service quality standards such as those pertaining to grade of service and drop calls.

In its order, the NTC asked each of the three players to recommend names of two independent and international inspectors. The commission would select an entity recommended by the three players. If there is no consensus, the NTC would simply choose the inspector via lottery.

The network check is estimated to cost between P50,000 to P100,000.

"The cost of the inspection would be very minimal because all the telcos have their own equipment. We would just be paying the inspectorís man-hours and it shouldnít cost much," a telco official said.

An NTC circular issued in 2002 required a grade of service of seven percent which means that no more than seven out of 100 connection attempts should fail on the first try. It also imposes a drop call rate of not more than five percent which means that no more than five out of 100 calls should be terminated by the network.

Smart and Globe have alleged that because of its 24/7 call and text unlimited pricing scheme, Sun Cellular had congested its young network and is doing its customers a big disservice.

Based on the tests which Globe had conducted, 35.4 out of 100 Sun Cellular calls during a 14-hour average fail to connect although on the drop call benchmark, 5.09

Globe said that from 8 to 9 pm, 87 out of 100 Sun Cellular calls did not connect successfully while drop calls rose to 14.29 out of 100 calls.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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