iPhone, WiMax to launch in Philippines

Local operator Globe Telecom will launch iPhone 3G Aug. 22; roll out WiMax services in the country by fourth-quarter 2008, say senior executives.

PHILIPPINES--Local operator Globe Telecom finally unveiled the official launch date of the much-hyped Apple iPhone 3G in the Philippines during a jam-packed investors' meeting Wednesday.

The touch-screen mobile device will make its local debut on Aug. 22, the date when several other countries worldwide will also see the launch of the 3G-enabled iPhone.

Globe Telecom senior executives said the mobile phone will be available in postpaid and prepaid plans. It urged interested subscribers to reserve a unit through a hotline and Web site set up specifically for order reservations, marking the first time the operator has done so for a particular phone model.

To drive sales, the first 1,000 orders will get a discount of 1,000 pesos (US$23), according to Globe Telecom.

Under the postpaid pricing model, subscribers have the option to choose from five packages for the 8GB and 16GB versions of the iPhone, which is available in white and black--though the 16GB option is available only in white.

The lowest monthly price plan is for the 8GB version, at 1,599 pesos (US$36), and subscribers will have to shell out an additional 16,800 pesos (US$382). For the 16GB iPhone, subscribers will have to fork out an additional 22,300 pesos (US$508). The highest monthly fee bundle, at 4,999 pesos (US$113), will allow subscribers to get the 8GB for free. For the 16GB iPhone, subscribers will have to pay an additional 5,500 (US$126).

Similar with most postpaid phone packages, subscribers must sign up for a two-year contract with the operator.

Prepaid packages are available for the 8GB iPhone at 41,899 pesos (US$956) and the 16GB at 48,899 pesos (US$1,115). Every prepaid kit will include 200 pesos (US$4.60) worth of free data each month, for five months.

Existing Globe Telecom postpaid subscribers can also upgrade to a variety of monthly plans for either the 8GB or 16GB versions. They must also agree to a two-year lock-in period.

Globe Telecom, which is partly owned by Singapore's SingTel, refused to reveal its sales target for the iPhone in the country--though Apple has said it expects to ship 10 million units worldwide by end-2008. Last month, iPhone shipment clocked at 1 million units.

Ferdinand dela Cruz, consumer wireless business group head of Globe Telecom, said the company is confident the iPhone will be a hit in the Philippines, even if observers claim its touch-screen functionality is not suited for text-savvy Filipinos.

"It has a touch keypad which texters can use," Dela Cruz said in an interview. "But, of course, this is not for everybody--just like the Mac is not for everybody. It is targeted to a specific segment of the market."

WiMax rollout in fourth-quarter
Globe Telecom also unveiled plans to roll out WiMax (802.16d version) in major Philippine cities in the last quarter of 2008. The announcement comes three years after the operator first conducted test-runs on the wireless broadband technology.

Globe Telecom COO Lee Hah Keng said the company expects to offer WiMax services in October this year in most urban areas across the Philippines.

Lee said the operator roped in Chinese equipment maker Huawei to supply CPE (customer premise equipment) terminals, as well as WiMax dongles that subscribers can plug into their computers to access the service.

Globe Telecom's president and CEO, Gerry Ablaza, said the WiMax offering will complement its existing broadband services such as DSL and HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access). WiMax, he said, will be particularly viable in areas where DSL is not available.

"But, we're not going to WiMax because we want to ditch 3G," Ablaza said. "We will continue to invest in 3G as we've already allocated a US$450 million capex (capital expenditure) for this."

Melvin G. Calimag is a freelance IT writer based in the Philippines.