Liberty Telecom eyes wireless broadband mart

The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 18 2009 09:59 AM | Updated as of Feb 18 2009 06:36 PM

Backed by the financial strength and good track record of its new management, Liberty Telecom Holdings Inc. is gearing up to capture a fair share of the highly lucrative wireless broadband market in the Philippines as it makes a fresh new start after a three-year hiatus.

Industry sources said the company is planning to launch its broadband and mobile phone services by July this year using Wi-Max (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), a telecommunications technology that provides high-speed wireless transmission of data.

Liberty Telecoms will become the corporate vehicle of the joint venture between Southeast Asia's largest food and drink group San Miguel Corp. and Qatar Telecommunications (QTel) in their quest to make a mark in the local wireless voice and data telecommunications services market.

Liberty Telecoms, through operating unit Liberty Network Inc., will provide the franchise and the broadband licenses while QTel, which acquired a stake in Liberty Telecoms in May 2008, will provide financial support.

While San Miguel chief executive officer Ramon S. Ang was elected chairman of Liberty Telecoms in a special board meeting held last Dec. 9, the food and beverage conglomerate is still negotiating the purchase of a 60-percent stake in the telecoms firm.

In a filing with securities regulators, Liberty Telecoms noted the country's strong pent-up demand for broadband Internet connectivity given increasing demand for online education, Voice-over-Internet protocol (VOIP) and gaming, as well as improving affordability of PCs and strong government commitment to develop IT and Internet-related sectors.

"With the growing demand for data services, the new management and its subsidiaries are very confident that Liberty Telecoms will be able to get a fair share of the country's prospective data users. Communications nowadays has become a necessity and for this reason the management is very optimistic that the set targets of company will be met and realized," Liberty Telecoms said.

The company said it will primarily focus on providing fixed broadband internet and voice service to premium households and small-and-medium enterprises and complement it with a mobile broadband offering.

In particular, Liberty Telecoms is hoping to provide high bandwidth for upper and middle class households, SMEs and high-end mobile users.

Liberty Telecoms is also hoping to launch VOIP in 2010 with focus on offering competitive international package.

With its planned services, Liberty Telecoms is expecting fierce competition from leading players Smart Communications and Globe Telecoms as well as Sun Cellular in the mobile data segment.

Analysts said the entry of a new player may bring lower pricing for both home and business customers of broadband services and bring broadband access to places where it has been economically unavailable.