Postpaid cellular war persists

by Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Oct 25 2010 01:40 AM | Updated as of Oct 25 2010 08:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - THE battle for postpaid subscriber count continues.

It started on September 22 when Sun Cellular, the mobile brand of the country’s third-largest mobile phone network operator Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc., claimed it’s now the leading postpaid mobile phone service provider after it registered its first million postpaid subscriber count.

At end-September, Sun Cellular’s official figures for postpaid subscription reached 1,010,289.

“Sun Cellular is clearly the number one in postpaid business. We achieved this never-before-attained milestone only seven years from start up and with our rivals enjoying a 10-year headstart. We are getting seven out of every 10 new postpaid subscribers,” said Charles Lim, Sun Cellular business unit chief executive officer.

Sun Cellular’s rivals Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. have indeed registered lower postpaid subscribers compared with that of Sun Cellular. Official and available figures as of end-June this year showed that Globe recorded 909,466 postpaid numbers while Smart registered 439,844. The numbers of Globe and Smart, however, only cover the period of end-June compared to Sun’s end-September figures.

Between Globe and Smart, the latter kept mum on Sun Cellular’s claim while Globe disputed this in its many paid advertisement and press releases claiming it is still unbeaten in terms of postpaid subscription numbers.

Industry regulator National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) confirmed the numbers provided by Sun Cellular.? “Those are the same subscriber count provided by Sun Cellular. We all know that Smart has the largest subscriber base largely because of its huge prepaid numbers. Based on numbers periodically provided, Sun’s postpaid subscriber base has? overtaken Smart and Globe but we don’t know if that stays the same now because Globe and Smart have yet to release their third quarter numbers,” said the agency’s director Edgardo Cabarios.

Since Globe is not authorized to disclose its end-September figures until it releases its third-quarter numbers next month, the cellular firm cited Nielsen's April-to-August research which showed that it maintained a significant lead over competitors in the postpaid segment. Aggregate data showed Globe cornered 48 percent of the total base of all consumer postpaid owners nationwide, definitely higher than Sun’s 28 percent and Smart’s 23 percent postpaid SIM share.?

Globe also claimed that it has the highest mobile postpaid revenue share in the industry. Company filings for the first half of the year showed that Globe has postpaid service revenues of P6.8 billion while Smart has P3.4 billion.? Sun and its listed parent company Digitel have not disclosed any comparable figure.?

Sun Cellular, which started commercial operations in 2003, is not threatened. “With every seven out of 10 new postpaid subscribers coming to us, we have found the sweet spot. We expect to gain more market share in the near future since our rivals will not be able to match our unlimited packages,” said Lim.

The key, said Lim, is Sun Cellular’s unmatched unlimited service and rates. Both of these are possible because Sun’s network uses the latest technology available.

“We can meet peak load demand without congestion. This is the advantage of being a latecomer in the business. We got the latest and the best infrastructure, and are offering rates that could reduce a subscriber’s cost anywhere from 40 to 80 percent per month,” he said.

Posted on its website, the lowest postpaid plan offered by Sun Cellular is P350 a month. The subscriber has three options to choose from.

The subscriber can opt for unlimited call and text within the same network, plus with 250 free text messages to other networks.

Or, for the same plan, a subscriber can enjoy unlimited SMS (short message service) within the same network, plus P200 consumable which may be used for calls to other networks or for Sun to Sun multi-media service or for SMS to email service.

Also, for P350 a month, this plan is fully consumable which may be used for calls to other networks or for Sun-to-Sun multimedia service or for SMS to email service. The P350 plan also has comes with 250 free SMS to other networks.

On the average, the postpaid subscriber count of any cellular firm account for about two to three percent of its total subscriber base. At end-June, Smart registered a total of 45.3 million subscribers; Globe with 24.6 million; and Sun Cellular with over 16 million.

Their numbers are changing and by next month when they report their third-quarter numbers it will be known which of the three landed on the No. 1 spot for most postpaid subscriptions. ??