Ushering in a new age of telecommunications in the home of the world’s heaviest internet users, Globe Telecom on Thursday launched Southeast Asia’s first commercial 5G network.
The company rolled out the next-generation mobile standard in parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces for the home wireless internet segment, an early application for a technology whose full capabilities are still emerging.
Globe CEO Ernest Cu said on the sidelines of the launch event Thursday night said, “When you’re first, you get to learn the technology ahead of everyone.”
Globe’s launch came ahead even of Singapore, whose Singapore Telecommunications owns the company along with conglomerate Ayala Corp. It is the third to roll out 5G in Asia after Japan and South Korea.
Internet users in the Philippines spent the most time online in the world, based on a January 2019 report by Hootsuite and We Are Social.
This provides fertile ground for telcos like Globe and rival PLDT Inc., which plans to launch 5G in the fourth quarter of 2019, to improve internet speeds as demand for data-heavy video streaming is on the rise.
Globe’s 5G network, which relies heavily on equipment supplied by longtime partner Huawei Technologies of China, has the potential to offer speeds 20 times faster than the current average internet speed in the country.
Beginning on July, customers in Pasig City in Metro Manila and the provinces of Cavite and Bulacan will be able to avail themselves of a range of 5G postpaid plans offering speeds of 20 megabits per second to 100 megabits per second.
Prices will range from P1,899 a month to P2,899 a month with a data cap of 2 terabytes, or about 800 hours of high-definition video streaming.
The pricing matches Globe’s existing plans for fiber internet, whose rollout is constrained by the time-consuming and costly permitting and right of way process.
Globe perceives wireless solutions such as 5G, while less reliable than fiber, as more efficient given its ability to reach more customers with less regulatory bottlenecks.
“We decided that what is best is to challenge the technology of fiber using 5G wireless,” Cu stated.
Albeit for now, the rollout of 5G will focus on areas where fiber is unserved or underserved, Globe chief commercial officer Alberto de Larrazabal noted. Globe is maintaining its target to connect two million households by next year.
Company officials also recognized that some of 5G’s more transformative applications were still being studied. These include self-driving cars, automated businesses and remote medical operations using virtual reality.
Furthermore, 5G-capable smartphones are mostly priced above P50,000, putting these out of reach for the average consumer. Handset makers are likely to launch more inexpensive models toward the end of 2019.