MANILA, December 28, 2005
 (STAR) TXT IN D CITY By Patrick R. Garcia (BIDSHOT WIRELESS SERVICES) - Despite my many late nights of Christmas revelry and brain cells fried from all the alcoholic beverages I’ve consumed, I boldly acknowledged my editor’s text message reminding me of my article’s deadline. If not for the fact that this is one of my favorite topics of the year to be writing about, I would have probably just have kept my cellphone’s inbox full and claimed I did not even get his reminder. Tony, you know I would never do that to you, right?! In the spirit of the much anticipated New Year, I will provide my 2006 Top 5 predictions. Why five? Because I will start with a recap of my last year’s predications and may just run out of print space.

I did a quick review of my last year’s predictions and got four out of five correct. To just enumerate the four I got right, they were the following: Voice-centric, value-added service (VAS) would catch on; mobile wallet usage would accelerate; more converged SMS and online website would crop up; and lower-end mobile phones would become more feature-rich for less cost. What I missed and probably so because of the strength of the telcos’ lobbying in Congress was the pro-consumer mobile number portability proposal. Oh well, not a bad batting average I would say. Okay, without further ado, here are my 2006 Top 5 predictions:

1. Carriers will adopt a mobile content ratings system. Due to our maturing telecoms market, it has become even more difficult to sell traditional content to our local subscribers. As such, our operators are scrambling to find both new products (VAS) and content to sell to the masses. This year some carriers may just push the limits of established moral standards by getting into "adult" content such as gambling and soft porn. To properly regulate this, some sort of rating system such as in the movies will have to be established. In fact, US telecom operators have just adopted a ratings system for mobile content, paving the way for them to sell mobile adult content. Hey, obviously adult content is an incredibly lucrative business and mobile adult content will soon be, too.

2. Push to talk. Push-to-talk service will allow users with compatible mobile phones to instantaneously chat with up to 20 other people at once at the push of a button – just like a walkie-talkie. I personally think it’s cool to have no dialing, ringing, or waiting for answers. I was hoping our local carriers would have offered this service by now, most especially since most new phone models already carry the push-to-talk capability. With higher ARPU (average revenue per user) being provided by postpaid and business users, they could be the targets of this service.

3. Mobile TV. The mobile phone has evolved into a multi-function gadget. In fact in Korea, local manufacturers have imbedded special chips in new mobile phones that allow broadcasters to beam programming directly to the phone. For TV-crazy Philippines, this has a big "cool" factor. The barrier I see with this approach though as against the GPRS approach of the telecom operators is that their subscribers will be able to spend time watching free content rather than having to pay to watch it.

4. NTC to tighten rules on prepaid phones. Mobile phone users in Singapore and Thailand with prepaid SIM cards are now obligated by their governments to register with service providers as part of an anti-terror program. Existing prepaid SIM cards that are not registered will be deactivated as declared by law after a set cut-off period. I believe our NTC may just pursue a similar measure to align itself with global security standards. I say if you have nothing to hide, why balk at this concept. Also, the imposed registration may just help prevent you from being blown up by a terrorist who now uses a mobile phone as trigger for bombs.

5. Mobile number portability will be imposed. I will again place this prediction on my list this year as I believe that telecom regulation by the NTC will be even tighter wherein the government body will start to align itself with global standards. Such a regulation would also be a political move to appease pro-consumer advocates and the now 40-million Filipino subscribers. Importantly, the resulting increased competition among the carriers to retain their subscribers should be good to lower both personal and enterprise communication costs as well as improve quality of service.

All things considered, 2006 will still shape up to be a challenging yet exciting year for the telcos and their content providers. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to wireless Philippines!

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Patrick R. Garcia is the managing director of Bidshot Wireless Services. For comments or suggestions, e-mail txtcity@yahoo.com.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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