Internet downtime, service concerns plague Philippines

Studies show unstable online connections and inadequate customer service resolution are leaving a bad aftertaste among small businesses and consumers in the Philippines.

PHILIPPINES--Poor Internet services and slow customer resolution continue to be major headaches for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the Philippines, according to a survey released last month.

Pacific Internet (PacNet) Philippines, one of the country's largest Internet service providers (ISPs), said it polled 150 executives randomly selected from the top 12,000 companies in the Philippines which have LAN or WAN connections. Respondents were from various industry segments including manufacturing, retail and distribution, financial services and transportation and logistics.

Conducted in the second quarter of 2006 by research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), the study indicated as much as 78 percent of local SMBs experience network downtime every month. Some 33 percent encounter between one and three downtime incidences a month, while 11 percent experience four to 10 downtime occurrences a month. About 67 percent encounter downtime that lasts four hours each time, and 53 percent of respondents described their ISP's resolution of the downtime as neither good nor excellent.

"The study was a concept test for new products that Pacific Internet was about to launch, and had included background information on the Internet access [service] SMBs [experience]," William Cabelin, product manager of PacNet, said in an e-mail interview. PacNet Philippines is a joint venture between Singapore-based PacNet and Philippine Internet company Primeworld Digital Systems (PDSI), which holds a telecommunications franchise and licenses for wireless broadband, VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) and other telecommunication services in the Philippines.

SMBs can employ several basic strategies to better cope with network downtime incidences, Cabelin said.

Companies that depend heavily on mission-critical applications and high service reliability should engage a service provider that can ensure high network reliability, he said.

"One technique is to employ the use of multiple telcos for their Internet services" he added.

PacNet, for example, recently launched a new service called Optimaxx, which combines provisions for a multiple-telco offering and a single ISP setup. Cabelin said this allows for an automatic, load-balance or failover service without having to change any configuration on the client's network.

Consumers also unhappy
On the consumer front, meanwhile, a separate survey showed that customer satisfaction of communications services remains low in Metro Manila.

A survey commissioned by telecommunications company Bayan Telecommunications in April, noted that as many as one out of four respondents in its customer satisfaction survey, believed services were inadequate, particularly services such as landline, broadband and cable connections.

According to the Bayan survey, which polled 300 respondents, indicated there were most consumers felt "corroding trust, increased frustrations and distrust toward the provider".

The study further said service satisfaction remained low even in Metro Manila, where the infrastructure is considered better than rural regions across the Philippines.

Joel D. Pinaroc is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.