Smart CEO Talks Satellite Possibilities
[09/14/07 – Satellite News] Smart Communications CEO Napoleon Nazareno admitted to Satellite News it was “a possibility” that the operator could use satellite technology when offering mobile TV services in the future. The Philippines telco, which has close to 30 million wireless subscribers is already one of the most progressiv
e telcos in the region when using satellite services and could follow the lead of others such as Tu Media in Korea when implementing a future mobile TV strategy.
While that is one for the future, Smart is already using satellite technology to benefit its subscribers. It has a satellite phone service called Smart Link, a service that allows subscribers to make calls anywhere in its coverage area, whether land or sea. Last month, Smart announced it had hooked up with Inmarsat to offer a wider geographic coverage for Smart Link.
The collaboration with Inmarsat involves a $5 million investment by Smart to set up a gateway facility and ground infrastructure in Subic, Zambales. It will result in an expanded coverage area for the Smart Link prepaid wireless satellite phone service that will initially include India, the Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Ocean. The Smart services will be carried on the Inmarsat-4 F1 satellite, which can support both voice call services and data connectivity. Nazareno explains why he felt Smart had to do this deal. He said, “The collaboration between Smart and Inmarsat is very important to Smart in terms of enhancing our service offering to our subscribers. Since our launch last 2001, our subscribers have been clamoring for extended coverage. With our new partnership with Inmarsat, we will now be able to serve more customers and extend the business to the markets in the Middle East, Europe, Australia and Africa.”
While satellite services may not be a core business for Smart, the ability to offer these services is still a vital competitive advantage. Nazareno commented, “Our satellite service is an effective differentiator. We are the only operator in the country that can provide this service. We are confident that this will contribute more to Smart’s total business not only in terms of revenues but also through helping us develop stronger bonds with our customers among overseas Filipinos and their families.”
The maritime market is a huge market for Smart and it is growing too. Nazareno said, “Our primary market for Smart Link is seafarers, and demand is quite high considering that these seafarers constantly communicate with their families and loved ones at home. Loneliness and homesickness are their constant companions. Smart Link provides a service that helps reduce the pain of separation. Smart Link fits in the total vision of the company in keeping everyone truly connected. The maritime sector in itself is a growing sector with around 1.2 million registered seafarers to date. As far as expanding our range of offerings, we are continually on the look out for relevant products and services that we can offer in the future.”
However, the demand for satellite-based services could move beyond just voice services for the maritime market. When asked what impact satellite technology could have overall on the communications landscape in Asia, Nazareno said, “Of course, with the fast paced lifestyle and the constant need to communicate anytime and anywhere, we see that the market will become more sophisticated and the needs will definitely expand from the basic voice services to content/data. In fact, we will soon offer such services. We believe that more companies will be looking into this segment with greater interest as the demand for maritime communication rises. For our part, we shall strengthen our position as the operator providing the most affordable and easily accessible satellite communication service for seafarers worldwide.”