MANILA, July 10, 2005
 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - The total number of installed landlines in the country reached 6.473 million as of end-2004, of which only half is being utilized, a report released by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) shows.

The installed capacity remains highly underutilized, with total subscribed telephone lines of only 3.437 million which means that almost half of the installed capacity still has no takers.

Of the 6.437 million installed landlines, around 2.8 million are in the National Capital Region while 1.049 million is in Region 4. And of the 3.437 million subscribed lines, 1.683 million are in the NCR and 588,688 in Region 4.

With a population of 82.65 million Filipinos in 2004, the teledensity based on installed lines is 7.83, and based on subscribed lines, 4.16 which means that around four of 100 Filipinos have telephone lines.

The overcapacity in the wireline industry has been due to a requirement under the governmentís service area scheme (SAS) that as a condition for the issuance of authority to offer cellular telephone mobile system (CMTS) service and international gateway facility (IGF) service, the operator has to install 400,000 and 300,000 landlines respectively. If it wishes to get license for both CMTS and IGF, it has to roll out a total of 700,000 landlines.

Many companies, including Bayantel, had to finance the roll-out using dollar-denominated loans that were secure when the exchange rate was still at P26 to $1. The inroad of new means of communication, such as mobile phones and the Internet, likewise spelled disaster for most landline companies, because there were very few takers for the fixed lines rolled out.

The NTC report likewise included a breakdown of telephone subscribers per operator. Of the 6.437 million total installed lines, 2.912 million is accounted for by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) or a market share of 45 percent. Globe Telecom landline subsidiary Innove Communications is second with 1.507 million lines or a 23.3 percent share of the market, followed by Gokongwei-owned Digital Telecommunications (Digitel) with 633,190 lines or a 12 percent share.

Also in terms of installed capacity, Lopez-owned Bayan Telecommunications (Bayante) is fourth with 443,910 lines or a 6.86 percent share, followed by Pilipino Telephone Inc. (Piltel) with 236,561 lines (3.65 percent), Philcom with 187,629 lines (2.9 percent), PT&T with 129,000 (1.99 percent), Eastern Telecom with 88,990 (1.37 percent), and Bell Telecom with 12,710 lines or a 0.2 percent share.

In terms of subscribed lines, PLDT has a 61.54-percent share of the market with 2.115 million of the 3.437 million total subscribed lines nationwide. Second is Digitel with a 12 percent market share of 412,618 subscribers, followed by Innove with a 9.6 percent share or 329,908 subscribers, Bayantel (6.61 percent or 227,057 subscribers), Philcom with a 1.34 percent market share or 46,122 subscribers, Piltel (1.08 percent or 36,956 subscribers), PT&T (0.96 percent or 33,022), ETPI (0.84 percent or 28,853), and Bell Telecom (0.06 percent or 1,942 subscribers).

Meanwhile, total number of cellular subscribers as of end-2004 reached 32.9 million, with Smart Communications having 14.59 million subscribers and its subsidiary Piltel another 4.6 million; Globe Telecom (including Touch Mobile) with 12.5 million subscribers; and Digitelís Sun Cellular with 1.2 million subscribers. Analog mobile service provider Extelcom said its subscriber base was at 13,670 last year from 29,986 subscribers in 2002.

With a population of 82.65 million, the cellular telephone density is at 39.85 as of end 2004 which means that almost 40 out of 100 Filipino have mobile phones.

The NTC likewise reported that as of end-2004, there were 73 local exchange carriers, 14 inter-carrier carriers, 11 with international gateway facility, 10 public trunk repeater service operators, eight offering radio paging service, 292 companies offering value-added service without their own networks, and 37 with their own networks offering VAS (broadband 19 and coastal 18).

In the same report, the NTC revealed that the number of registered Internet subscribers in the country has reached 1.2 million in 2004, a 25 percent growth from the one million subscribers reported in the previous year.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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