August 10, 2005 
(STAR) HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes T- ePLDT, the information and communications technology arm of PLDT, is slowly but surely increasing its contributions to the parent company’s coffers.

During the first half of 2005, ePLDT reported a profit of P83 million. Service revenues grew 39 percent to P1.3 billion from P953 million, with its call center business leading the way. In fact, the call center business has become such a lucrative area for ePLDT that two additional sites are being put up before the end of the year that would increase seating capacity to 4,800 from the present 3,179, making ePLDT one of the country’s largest call center operators.

To further bolster its ICT presence, ePLDT has just invested an additional P20 million in Airborne Access Corp., bringing its equity interest in the latter from 1.9 to 51 percent. Airborne is the country’s leading operator of Wi-Fi hotspots, which provides wireless Internet access in hotspots equipped with Airborne Access Wi-Fi access points.

Nokia’s story

Parikshit Bhasin, country general manager of Nokia Philippines, has every reason to smile these days. Despite the intense marketing efforts by its competitors, Nokia remains as the top brand choice among Filipinos. According to sources, Nokia is still the undisputed market leader, followed by Motorola, Bird, and Ericsson. The three probably share with other brands around 15 to 20 percent of the market. But as in the past, Parikshit is mum about his company’s share of the market.

There are around 36 million mobile phone subscribers in the Philippines, or a cellular penetration rate of roughly 43 percent.

While PB, as his friends and associates refer to him, agrees with PLDT top man Manny Pangilinan and Globe’s Gerry Ablaza that the market will not be growing as rapid or as steep as in the past, mobile penetration rate can still go up to 50 percent, which means half the Philippine population will be owning cellular phones. But when this will happen is the big question. The road will definitely be bumpy as Smart, Globe, and Sun Cellular aim to grab the biggest share of the new additional subscribers. These new users will be coming from the D & E markets, which do not give as much additional revenue per user as those coming from market segments. These new users are more widely dispersed throughout the country so imagine the marketing effort required to reach them.

Aside from the growth expected to come from the D & E markets as well as second and third-tier cities, the market is moving towards upgrades and the replacement cycle is getting shorter. And PB believes that when the cost of mobile services becomes more affordable, the growth curve in growth markets will accelerate sharply. For growth markets like the Philippines, Nokia is convinced that the key to success is to work closely with mobile operators to reduce the overall cost of mobile phone ownership for consumers and to work closely with government bodies to overcome possible barriers that are preventing forward momentum.

Nokia as in the past will continue to defend its position in all market segments. While introducing the Nokia 1110 and 1600 entry level phones aimed at first time users, it has also launched the much-awaited Nseries of next generation multimedia devices. Nokia N91 which will be launched in the Philippines sometime in December can store up to 3,000 songs, which will make owning a phone and a high-end MP3 player separately passé. Nokia N90 which will be available sooner will take mobile photography to a new level, being the world’s first camera phone equipped with Carl Zeiss optics and boasting a two megapixel camera.

That’s not the end of it. Nokia is also actively promoting mobile TV among the different stakeholders, including the telcos, media companies, and the government, and hopefully, this new service will be rolled out early next year. A proprietary technology, mobile TV according to Nokia does not aim to replace regular TV viewing but will supplement it. How the stakeholders will agree as far as revenue sharing is concerned, or whether it will be pay per view or a fixed month service initially among the Series 60 phone users, remains to be seen. What is sure though is that life, at least as far as mobile phone users are concerned, will never be the same again.

Making life better

So from mobile phones that incorporate high-resolution cameras and audio/video players, we go to appliances that aim to make us healthier.

So how is appliance manufacturer Sharp "making life better"? While it has just put up a $1.5-billion plant in Kameyama in Central Japan, and is planning to open more state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in the future, and investing more in research and development, the company maintains these things are not being done just to get ahead of competition but to make life better for people all over the world by providing high quality products and excellent services. Sharp revolutionalized home entertainment by patenting the plasmacluster ion technology which is a special generating device that deactivates and eventually eliminates harmful substances in the air, such as bacteria, viruses, germs, molds, and odors. This unique technology has been incorporated into its home appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and air purifiers. In these appliances, the air is both purified and deodorized for a more pleasant and healthier environment. In the case of refrigerators, food is kept fresh with the elimination of molds and odors.

The Philippines has already started enjoying the benefits of using Sharp appliances that incorporate this technology. Institutions like the Makati Medical Center, St. Luke’s Hospital, the Medical Plaza, Dusit Hotel Nikko, are among the satisfied customers. Another pioneering technology developed by Sharp is the Silver (Ag+) Ion technology that has been integrated to its fully-automatic washing machine. This technology deactivates odor-causing bacteria on dirty clothes and prevent possible germ activation from hang-dry to wear. Other products that aim to make life better include Sharp’s pioneering low-fat and low-calorie cooking appliance which is the Healsio Water Oven. It reduces fat and salt content by cooking with superheated steam. Sharp is also the world’s largest solar energy manufacturer. Its Katsuragi Plant Nara Prefecture has bolstered its production of solar cells to meet the world’s increasing demand for alternative energy sources, primarily in residential applications.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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