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Despite social media, SMS is still king in PHL

NOT so fast, Facebook and Twitter. Filipinos remain text-messaging fanatics with billions of SMS sent daily and still rising.

Dubbed the social-media capital of the world in 2011, the Philippines has around 93.9 percent of its 40-million strong Internet population on Facebook. The country also has 9.5 million registered Twitter users, according to Semiocast.

Data from Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., however, showed that text messages sent by its units’ combined 67.4 million subscribers stood at 256.31 billion at end-June, up 60 percent from the 160.61 billion last year.

PLDT’s mobile service units include Smart, Talk ’N Text and Sun.

Napoleon Nazareno, PLDT president and chief executive, said the volume of SMS as well as revenues in the first half of the year improved from a year ago.

“It’s ingrained in the habit of the consumers to do SMS on top of doing social media. It’s more widely available, the habit is there and it’s inexpensive. All those together is fueling the demand for SMS,” Nazareno said.

But the bulk of SMS sent is low-margin at 234.99 billion, with standard SMS at 20.9 billion. International SMS numbered 414 million.

This means that the daily average SMS sent by PLDT Group subscribers stood at about 1.4 billion.

Smart had 26.9 million subscribers while value brand Talk ’N Text had 24 million and Sun Cellular, 15.9 million.

Rival Globe Telecom had 19.2 billion SMS sent a month or over 640 million a day.Globe had 31.73 million subscribers.

Yolanda Crisanto, Globe spokesman, said Filipinos are still text messaging because it is “more personal.”

She said the company’s mobile business revenues are still growing, but at a slower pace.In the first six months of this year, mobile revenues grew 6 percent to P33.3 billion from last year’s P31.4 billion.

“A little bit unique.”

Nazareno said the Philippine market is “a little bit unique” compared with other markets because “we have been an SMS-based market.”

With the unlimited text offering, the cost per SMS now is less than six centavos, he said.

The PLDT group earned P14.65 billion in the first half of the year, up 29 percent from last year because of various bucket priced or unlimited SMS offers.

Standard text-messaging revenues, which include outbound-standard SMS and domestic-inbound SMS revenues, decreased by 6 percent to P8.02 billion in the first half from P8.54 billion last year.

The company blamed the drop in standard text revenues on the increased use of unlimited SMS, as well as the lower SMS interconnect charge ordered by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The NTC reduced the SMS interconnection charge to 15 centavos from the previous 35 centavos per text.

As a result, the average revenue per user (Arpu) has been declining because people are going to the cheaper bucket promos, Nazareno said.

Smart’s prepaid gross Arpu dropped by 14 percent to P175 in the first six months from P204 last year, while Talk ’N Text’s Arpu was down by 8 percent to P117.

Sun Cellular’s prepaid Arpu stood at P75.

For postpaid, Smart’s Arpu stood at P1,290, down by 21 percent from P1,624 last year. Sun Cellular’s Arpu stood at P413.

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