Telecommunications –
Global mobile group to support disaster response cooperation between Smart, Nokia, PH Red Cross

Smart Communications and Nokia Philippines announced they have received funding from the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), the organization representing mobile operators globally, for a disaster response drone system.

The Nokia Saving Lives drone project, which will operate on Smart’s frequencies during times of emergency, has been selected as a grantee by the GSMA Disaster Response Innovation Fund.

The GSMA is an originally-European trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide. Approximately 800 mobile operators are full GSMA members and a further 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem are associate members.

The Nokia Saving Lives program seeks to provide communications technology and technical assistance to emergency response teams. In the Philippines, Smart will provide high-speed connectivity for a drone-based system to help boost the disaster response efforts of the Philippine Red Cross.

The system consists of drones, a portable data center, a mobile broadband network, and applications like video streaming, gas sensing, mapping, and analytics, which can help Red Cross responders assess current status of lifelines and analyze immediate needs and gaps. This will enable Red Cross to provide emergency assistance to communities in more timely, effective and efficient ways.

Using Smart’s high-speed LTE connectivity and the portable Nokia Ultra Compact Network, the system can also create a secure communication between drones, other equipment, and rescue team members.

The drone can be equipped with different types of cameras, sensors and speakers, and can also be used to carry first aid kits. The portable data center, meanwhile, is a computing and storage unit that can be used for immediate data analysis.

The initiative was presented to the delegates of the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter (HCC) Regional Workshop for Asia-Pacific during a visit to the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation emergency operations center. Representatives from the GSMA and other telecommunications providers all over Asia attended the HCC meeting, held recently in Angeles, Pampanga.

“We are proud to present this collaboration with our colleagues here in Asia and the rest of the world,” said PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto. “Disaster preparedness is one of our priority advocacies. At Smart, we provide continuous network service, as well as multi-platform technology and training, as we work with the government and other partners. We believe our communications support for the drones will help enhance disaster response and, ultimately, save lives.”

“The GSMA Disaster Response Innovation Fund is proud to be supporting projects that use mobile technology to assist and empower individuals or communities who are building their resilience to natural disasters, or who are affected by humanitarian emergencies,” said Kyla Reid, head of digital identity and mobile for humanitarian innovation at the GSMA. “This project from Nokia and Smart Communications is an excellent example of collaboration and highlights the positive role the private sector can play in strengthening response in the face of disaster.”

Christina Cabrera, head of Nokia Technology Center Philippines, said: “Nokia creates the technology to connect the world. The collaboration between Smart, Nokia Technology Center Philippines and the Philippine Red Cross brings the innovative Nokia Saving Lives solution for emergency situations into use—right here in the Philippines. To do this we build on the strength of Nokia’s engineering capabilities worldwide and especially on the expertise and motivation of our engineers in the Nokia Technology Center Philippines.”

Smart is one of the three founding signatories of the GSMA Human Connectivity Charter. The HCC aims to provide increased access to communication and information for those affected by calamities, helping reduce loss of lives and contribute to humanitarian response. It supports efforts by network operators and industry partners to formalize their commitments to enhance their capacity to mitigate, prepare for, and respond to disasters, using mobile technology.

Since its launch in 2015, HCC has grown to include over 147 mobile operator members and six humanitarian partners in more than 106 countries.

Smart’s disaster preparedness programs have been cited in the GSMA HCC annual reports. These programs include Smart’s Emergency Cell Broadcast System (ECBS), which sends out location- and hazard-specific alerts; its ICT Bayanihan series of regional summits to institutionalize emergency telecommunications teams; and the Batingaw disaster management app, which has been replicated in the Horn of Africa.

Smart’s support to the Red Cross and commitment to HCC are part of the company’s #SafePH advocacy, which aims to help build resilient communities and reduce disaster-related casualties through technology.

Representatives of Smart, Nokia, and the Philippine Red Cross sign an agreement for the operation of the Nokia Saving Lives drone system in the Philippines.

Chinese tech optimistic with PH businesses’ digital transformation

China’s Huawei Technologies said the Philippines’ information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure is already “at peak.”

Leo Zhang, president at Business Enterprise Group, Huawei Philippines, stressed top sectors will propel the country’s path to digitization.

“So we see here ICT infrastructure condition is actually at peak. We see the banking, manufacture, BPO (business process outsourcing), these industries have huge requirement for digital transformation. ICT requirement in the country is very strong,” he told reporters.

“We are very confident because these requirements. The whole world is also developing, dramatically fast,” he added.

Zhang further encouraged the government and the private sector to show cooperation for the Philippines’ smooth sail to digital journey.

For its part, Huawei is determined to produce more local talents for the ICT sector, he noted.

“We are very keen to help the Philippine citizens to make more talents. The country has many young people. We can provide assistance or trainings to the Filipinos,” Zhang said.

Huawei uses cloud computing, software-defined networking, big data, and the internet of things to help organizations secure and upgrade their systems.

DICT lauds oversight committee for third telco entry

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s move to establish an oversight committee for the entry of the new major telco player.

The President issued the Administrative Order (AO) 11 or the “Creation of an Oversight Committee for the Entry of a New Major Player in the Public Telecommunications Market” on April 6, but was only released to the press on April 11.

“We welcome it very much. It will make the selection process for the New Major Telco Player transparent and objective, taking into consideration the concerns of stakeholders, including other government departments,” DICT acting chief Eliseo Rio, Jr. said in a text message to reporters.

The committee would ensure that the entry of a new player can provide “reliable, inexpensive and secure” services for Filipino consumers.

The DICT will lead the committee as the chairperson, providing secretariat support; a representative from the Department of Finance will act as vice-chairperson; while representatives from the Office of the Executive Secretary and National Security Adviser complete the panel.

Assigned powers and functions were to assist the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to formulate the Terms of Reference (TOR) and assignment of frequencies, as well as to make sure that NTC and other implementing agencies comply with the TOR.

The committee will also ensure timely implementation pursuant to the timeline established by both DICT and NTC.

It can also ask for assistance from other government agencies as the circumstances and exigencies may require.

It will also be given incidental powers necessary for the proper exercise of powers and functions.

DICT to name 3rd telco before Duterte’s SONA

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has committed itself to name the new major telco player before the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte in July, a top official said.

DICT acting chief Eliseo Rio, Jr. said on April 6 the agency will still push to award frequencies to the third telco carrier, which could break the so-called telco duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom.

He said this despite the fact that the President has no longer set a deadline for the entry of a new player.

Rio stressed the third telco entrant has the capacity to challenge the two existing players given the enough frequencies allotted for the former.

The spectrum available includes the 700 megahertz frequencies of PLDT and Globe Telecom when both acquired the telco assets of San Miguel Corp., as well as the 10 megahertz from the Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise (CURE) surrendered by PLDT.

The government official noted they will look at the potential bidders’ committed investment and technical expertise.

It was last year when Duterte opened the telco industry for a new player amid the Filipino public’s clamor for quality broadband services.

Duterte extends NOW Telecom franchise for 25 years

In a bid to spark competition in the local telco industry, President Rodrigo Duterte has extended the legislative franchise of Now Telecom, Inc. to another 25 years.

In a statement, NOW Telecom said the President granted the company with a 25-year extension or until 2043 in the market as inked in the Republic Act No. 10972 which was signed for approval into law.

“With the said law, NOW Telecom, as a telecommunications company, now has privileges similar to those granted to existing dominant players in the industry,” it noted.

Under its franchise, NOW Telecom is granted a franchise to construct, establish, operate, and maintain mobile radio systems such as radio paging systems, cellular phone systems, personal communication network (PCN), and trunked radio systems.

It is an affiliate of NOW Corp.

Early this year, the group already showed a desire to bid for the slot as the new major telco player.

The government targets to make the new player operational in the first quarter of this year to provide better internet access to Filipinos and to break the so-called telco duopoly of PLDT and Globe Telecom.

Poe pushes bill on free WiFi to transport terminals

Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, is pushing her vision through the Senate Bill 1695 which targets to provide Filipino commuters with free access to broadband connectivity in terminals.

In pushing for its approval, Poe noted the enactment of the Republic Act No. 10929 or the Free Internet Access in Public Places Act, which creates a “Free Internet Access Program” in all public places in the country.

Her proposed law would demand owners, operators or administrators of transportation terminals, stations, stops and rest areas to collaborate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) in setting up necessary infrastructure to make sure that the free service will be delivered to passengers.

Furthermore, the bill requires transportation terminals to have clean sanitary facilities for passengers that are free of charge.

Duterte invites India to invest in PH telco industry

President Rodrigo Duterte invited India to invest in the country’s telco sector as part of the current administration’s vision to deliver better internet connectivity for Filipinos.

Duterte said he invited India during his visit at New Delhi in January.

“India is also interested to enter into the telecom industry and we are considering,” Duterte said.

“I invited them during my talks with the businessmen of India during my official visit,” he added.

The President said that frequencies for a third telco player are already made available by the government.

“I have opened up the third frequency for telecommunication, telecoms. If you are the representative there, you can always go to them and discuss business,” he said.

Subsequently, Duterte said Indian nationals must shun any corruption attempt by Philippine government officials.

They are also urged to report corruption cases against public officials so his office can make appropriate action.

“If you are asked to shell out money or there is a transaction which involves corruption for a favor or for a permit then let me know,” Duterte said.

“Unless you are ready to give it then just shut up because it’s yours. But you are not supposed to spend for anything unless it’s part of the official fees and the collections of government, regulatory fees most of it,” he said.