An interconnected world
First-world connection is more than just fast internet; it is also about building a whole ecosystem of experience through wonderful content, affordable devices and reliable services.
Connectivity across the world is increasing, and soon, no one — not even those in currently “offline” countries — will be left behind.
Today, more than half the world’s population (51.2 percent) are online, according to the United Nations telecommunications agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Developed countries have seen a slow and steady growth from 51.3 percent in 2005 to 80.9 percent in 2018. But more significant is the growth in the developing countries, which has jumped to 45.3 percent from 7.7 percent over the same time period.
More people are coming online every day, and this is transforming their lives.
Students, teachers, and members of local communities in Portugal, Kenya and Jamaica for example, now have access to education and information because of e-rate programs that make internet accessible in schools and libraries.
People located far from health clinics can now access crucial health-related information over the phone, with programs like “Mobile Kilkari” in India that caters to pregnant women and mothers, and “Mobile Kunji” that helps healthcare workers educate and counsel families in need.
In the Philippines, patients in remote villages are being taken care of through the e-health platform SATMED and KonsultaMD. Connected over satellite broadband services, SATMED enables multiple medical applications and tools to be integrated, and allows NGO-partner German Doctors to keep tabs on large groups of patients living in these areas so as to provide better public healthcare. KonsultaMD provides 24/7 access to high quality medical advice and consultancy services from doctors and medical practitioners. This addresses the need for affordable and accessible health care for the underserved Filipino population.
Connectivity across the world is increasing, but far too many people around the world are still waiting to reap the benefits of the digital economy.
More investments, support technology, and business innovation is still needed, so that the digital revolution leaves no one offline.
joining the connected world
The Philippines is one country that still scores quite low in terms of connectivity, according to the 2018 Huawei global connectivity index. With a score of 35 out of 100, Philippines ranks 57th out of 79 countries surveyed.
The country is “still behind in regards to its fundamental infrastructure and scoring low in broadband and data center, which would hinder its further development into next stage of Information and Communications Technology,” stated the report.
Latest data from We Are Social and TowerXchange showed that around 67 million active internet users in the Philippines are sharing 17,850 cell sites as of third quarter 2018. The Philippines is forced to serve an average of 3,753 people per cell site. This shows a stark difference when compared to some of its neighboring countries like China, where only around 384 active internet users are sharing one cell site.
But this will soon change. The Philippine government now prioritizes the development of internet connectivity in the country as the newly-created DICT, Information and Communication Technology has been mandated to develop a National Broadband Plan to accelerate the deployment of fiber optic cables and wireless technologies to improve internet speed.
The government is also looking at providing Wi-Fi access at no charge in selected public places including plazas and parks, public libraries, schools, government hospitals, train stations, airports and seaports.
In the latest development, a memorandum was signed on 8 June 2018 between DICT, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), and the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), for the utilization of spare optical fiber to a network spanning 6,154 kilometers, from Luzon to Mindanao.
With this, NGCP’s transmission facilities can act as the network backbone, interconnected with the to-be constructed Luzon Bypass Infrastructure. When completed, these two broadband projects will save time, money, and about $2.6 billion in government resources, while addressing the need for faster and more affordable internet connectivity in the country.
The DICT also signed MOUs recently to several local and foreign tower companies to increase the number of cell site towers in order to catch up with neighboring countries.
Telcos to the aid
Telecommunication operators like Globe are helping to improve connectivity and bring advanced internet solutions to the country, so as to aid the poorer communities where basic infrastructure like roads and bridges might still be lacking.
“Studies and experience have shown that broadband access creates significant impact on the development of marginal areas as this allows the community to conduct business faster with people all over the world, and get information on education, health and government services,” said Cu.
About 80 percent of homes in the Philippines do not have a fixed broadband access but Globe is determined to change that.
It aims to bring mobile and wireless broadband coverage to 95% of the cities and municipalities in the country before June 2019. By the end of 2018, Globe already delivered 93.5% wireless broadband network coverage.
Globe Telecom is on track to hit its target of rolling out 2 million home broadband with speed of at least 10 Mbps by 2020, in line with its commitment to improve fixed internet service in the Philippines. Globe is accelerating home broadband deployment and rolled out an additional 360,000 high speed fixed wireline and wireless broadband lines by end of 2018.
Globe is set to roll out 5G technology by Q2 2019 which is geared to further enhance the digital experience in Filipino homes using the groundbreaking technology. With this, Globe will put the Philippines among the first countries that will offer 5G commercially for home use.
Globe also introduced the innovative Home Prepaid Wi-Fi (HPW), the first prepaid wireless broadband service at home. The HPW can now provide previously out-of-reach areas with seamless internet connectivity at an affordable price.
To compliment the HPW, Globe also launched Streamwatch Xtreme, the “first in the world 3-in-1 device” that offers a home internet connection with WiFi, free local TV channels, and Internet TV.
Even residents of rural areas where the government’s NBP has not touched can now go online and enjoy the benefits of being connected, just like those in developed countries.
Connectivity for all
The initiatives of private sectors like Globe to improve the state of telecommunications are contributing to the optimistic outlook on the future of connectivity in the Philippines. The World Bank cited the Philippines as one of the “breakout nations” in terms of developing a digital economy and integrating connectivity to the lives of Filipinos.
Often, people who live in rural communities work in agriculture. Perceived to be non-commercially viable, telco operators tend not to expand their mobile phone coverage to these areas. About four percent of the world’s population still live beyond the reach of a cell tower without access to even basic voice and text services, and as much as 10 percent are unable to access a 3G or higher speed network.
As such, residents in these communities lose out on crucial information such as employment opportunities, knowledge of weather patterns to plant crops for increased success, and where to sell their products for the best profits.
- Connectivity changes all this.
- Farmers can connect directly with buyers and distributors across the country (or even beyond) in a split second;
- Healthcare services can be deployed in the event of an emergency with a call;
- Children in remote villages could even get access to quality education and a global pool of teaching volunteers via e-learning platforms.
But connectivity is more than just what our smartphones and tablets offer. It’s in our cars, in our houses, in our electronic household items — basically all around us.
People, processes and data will be increasingly linked through connected devices. In due time, even those living in rural areas will no longer be too “far away”.
Without leaving anyone behind, the world as a whole will go beyond just being connected; it’ll be interconnected.