BAGUIO CITY – Smart Communications’ move to offer free mobile Internet access to its subscribers for five months up to end-February 2015 has boosted rather than dampen the growth in mobile Internet revenues in the first quarter of the year.
According to the disclosure of its parent firm PLDT, the mobile Internet revenues of Smart and sister firm Digitel Mobile Philippines jumped 19% year-on-year to P2.2 billion from P1.9 billion. Sustained quarter-on-quarter growth was registered from the first quarter of 2014.
“The uplift of our mobile Internet revenues underscores the success of our Free Internet offer. Our premise with Free Internet is that Filipinos will get into the habit of using mobile data once they have experienced the ease, usefulness, and relevance of being connected. And indeed, the offer has helped stimulate our subscribers’ interest in accessing online content and services to the point that a growing number of them are now more willing to pay for mobile data connectivity,” said PLDT and Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon L. Nazareno.
From September 2014 to February 2015, Smart ran the Free Internet promo giving Smart, Sun Cellular, and Talk ‘N Text subscribers 30 MB of free data per day.
Subscribers had access not just to social networking sites like Facebook, but also to their favorite websites and relevant applications.
During the launch of the promo, PLDT and Smart chairman Manny V. Pangilinan said the move was meant to “provide a much larger number of Filipinos the opportunity to try out and experience the Internet [and] enjoy its benefits.”
The market response to the promo was robust, as over six million mobile phone subscribers of Smart, Sun, and Talk ‘N Text signed up, 70% of whom were first-time mobile Internet users.
Mobile data usage in the Smart network surged by 188% in the first quarter, to 21,598 terabytes.
“Many Filipinos had been hesitant to use mobile Internet for various reasons, including the fear of incurring data charges. But once they got a taste of the benefits, their mobile data usage increased,” Nazareno said.
Moreover, Smart found a way to give its customers a “soft landing” when the Free Internet offer ended on Feb. 28: Subscribers now get 30 MB of free Internet access per day whenever they buy prepaid packages for voice and text messaging. They can avail of these for as low as P10 a day.
Smart also announced new Big Bytes data packages for prepaid and broadband subscribers, which give them even more generous mobile data packages.
A P50 Big Bytes subscription, for example, already includes 300MB of all-access mobile data, 500MB for Smart’s SPINNR music service, and 100MB for YouTube or Skype Qik, valid for three days.
Other efforts to stimulate data usage include sponsored data from Safe Zone and content partnerships with global digital services from Disney, Skype, Deezer, and YouTube, among many others.
Smart, through value brand Talk ‘N Text, also partnered with Facebook to launch Internet.org in the Philippines, an application that currently gives free access to 24 useful and informative sites including popular social apps Facebook and Messenger.
Smart is the country’s leading mobile operator with a combined Smart and Sun Cellular subscriber base of 73 million.
By Dexter A. See