Wireless in the Philippines – leadership versus influence

Talk about wireless and mobile anywhere in the world and invariably, the Philippines will pop up as a model, a case study or a hot-bed of sorts. With 63 Million mobile subscribers (out of about 91 Million total population) and all sending over a billion messages per day, we still are the Text Capital of the World.

Being the leader of this massive wireless tribe is really an accomplishment if not a Herculean feat – so kudos to Smart for being the clear leader in sheer numbers, in ARPU and in total business. Globe isn’t a laggard either, with their excellently packaged 24ever campaign, their iconic iPhone 3G and their die-hard influential post-paid subscriber base.

But credit is due to what I sincerely believe as the most INFLUENTIAL player here in this field: Sun Cellular.

These guys are the true mavericks in the arena. Sure, they haven’t really brought in any new technologies or new products, but for some reason every move they make warrants either massive paradigm shifts or tectonic pricing movements across the industry.

They seem to have a knack of knowing what people *actually* want from their telcos – unlimited bucket pricing for calls and text (check)
call all you want promos for off-peak usage (check)
easy subscription plans (check)
less red-tape to get subscriptions (check)
bottomless 3G mobile broadband (check)

Sure, their GSM offering was years behind Smart and Globe’s, but the way they priced it was light years ahead of the curve – they effectively turned mobile telephony into the landline of old – Telebabad was back!

Again, there’s nothing special about their post-paid plans – in fact, purists complain about signal quality, dropped calls and other generation-one problems – but the fact remains that for people and companies who shift their telco requirements to Sun, they experienced massive savings on telephony.

Lastly, this bottomless 3g mobile broadband offering is so tempting – even Smart lowered their Smart Bro dongle cost. Globe did one even better and really dropped their prices to less than 50% of original price.

Market leaders and brand innovators are supposed to lead the pack in technologies, pricing and products, but why is it that the smallest reputable telco here is the one causing shifts in pricing and in consumer behavior?

Leadership versus Influence.

I imagine both Smart and Globe following suit by offering simple one-ID subscriptions, uber-cheap per minute calls, 3G rate cuts among others just to counter Sun’s offerings. Which is just fine and dandy for the much beleaguered Filipino consumer.

With that, hurray for Sun, hurray for Smart and for Globe. Thanks for taking care of the Filipino mobile customer. Keep up the good work