PLDT’s chairman and CEO Manuel Pangilinan has stated that the company may form a strategic partnership with a Chinese firm, either for its digital arm Voyager Innovation or for the operator as a whole.
The digital arm was spun off as an independent subsidiary in 2013, and Pangilinan noted that it “is in the process of looking for strategic partners, and it’s possible that we may have a Chinese partner.” He described this approach as “a rather novel idea” which “we should consider at the PLDT level.”
The Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte has called for Chinese investment in the country’s mobile market in order to break the duopoly of PLDT and its rival Globe Telecom. The president has criticised both operators for failing to improve their services, and in October 2016 threatened to invite competition from Chinese companies if they did not increase their lacklustre broadband speeds.
The most recent data (May-July 2017) for the Philippines from OpenSignal, which maps wireless coverage, pegged the country’s average download speed at 8.6Mb/s – well below the global 4G average of 16.2Mb/s. PLDT’s mobile unit Smart splits the market with Globe, with each having a share of nearly 50%.
Philippine Telegraph and Telephone (PT&T) is looking to move back into telecoms via a partnership with a foreign investor, and could become a major rival. The firm was established the 1960s and has outlined plans to deliver broadband across the Philippines in the next three years.