Social media and mobile service woes: Globe explains, Smart claims gains

Rappler.com

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The network glitch over the weekend, amplified by irate netizens on social networks, is the latest in the bitter competition between the country's two largest telecommunication groups

MANILA, Philippines – Social media amplifies complaints of customers unhappy with service quality. 


That was a truism local phone companies experienced once again over the past weekend, when frustrated subscribers of Globe Telecom Inc. took to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks to vent about dropped calls, delayed text messages, slow mobile browsing and difficulty in calling.

On Monday, September 3, Globe officials announced that a rebate awaits both postpaid and pre-paid subscribers affected by the “connectivity issue” last Saturday, September 1.

As Globe explained the recent network glitch and what lies ahead once its big-budget modernization program is in place, the Ayala-led firm also tried to downplay claims by rival giant Smart Communications that unhappy Globe customers are jumping ship.

This set of events–amplified by irate netizens on social networks–was the latest in the bitter competition between the country’s two largest telecommunication groups.

Network glitch

Both Globe and Smart are pursuing network modernization plans to address current network congestion, largely due to bucket or “unlimited” offerings for SMS and text and voice call service, as well as internet access.

Of the two, Globe has been hounded by a barrage of customer complaints, most of them in the form of posts on social media networking, sites such as Twitter and Facebook, for poor service.

Globe chief financial officer Albert de Larrazabal explained that the existing network infrastructure could no longer handle the huge traffic in SMS and voice.
 
“The old network is congested because of the technology inherent in it and it was due for an upgrade. It’s very old,” he told reporters. “The reason why it is congested now is because the capacity currently installed simply cannot handle the volume of traffic going through. The glitches are caused by the growth in usage and there’s not enough capacity to handle.”

When subscribers in Metro Manila experienced “connectivity issues” over the weekend, Globe explained that this was due to a breakdown in its router used to send instructions within the network, causing  ‘signaling problems.’

This was why Globe customers experienced difficulty making and receiving calls in some parts of Las Pinas, Muntinlupa, Paranaque as well as parts of Manila and Pasay, over the weekend.

Globe had detected the problem last Saturday, September 1, and was partially resolved by Sunday, September 2, explained Globe chief executive officer Ernest Cu in a statement.
 
“A router supplied by a leading US vendor malfunctioned and had to be reconfigured. As of press time, the problem has been completely resolved and all services in the affected areas are back to normal. Globe will also be replacing this system in conjunction with its new network build,” he said.

Network modernization

The Globe officials were at a defensive stage–again–over reports that it was their ongoing network upgrade that contributed to the network glitch.

Globe stressed that ongoing network modernization program, which has reached the metropolis already, is nowhere to be blamed for the network congestion.

Globe announced in November 2011 that it will embark on a $700-million network modernization program to address growing concerns from subscribers and improve its service capabilities especially for mobile data. The program also aims to future proof the network for smartphone traffic and to allow evolution to new standards such as 4G (fourth generation) LTE (Long Term Evolution) which will be launched in Makati this September.
 
“We are progressively building our brand new network with our technology partner,” Globe CEO Ernest Cu said in a statement.
 
Globe has so far completed 50% of its network modernization project. It has rolled out new equipment in high traffic areas such as Davao, Cebu, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela (CAMANAVA), Marikina City, as well as the towns of Angono, Antipolo, Baras, Binangonan, Cardona, Jala-Jala, Morong, Pililia, Rodriguez, San Mateo, Tanay and Teresa in Rizal. There are over 3,000 sites that have been upgraded and thousands of kilometers of fiber optic cable have been laid out.
 
“Critical areas in Metro Manila are now entering the completion phase with Quezon City at 90% completion, Pasig and Mandaluyong will be done by October, Makati will be done by November this year. We will continue moving south from there and will have the whole country completed by the first quarter of 2013,” said Cu.
 
The network modernization program–Globe’s most significant investment in the last two decades–includes an all-IP infrastructure, pervasive 3G and HSPA+ coverage, greater fiber optics capacity, 4G and LTE readiness, and overall improved quality and resiliency. Once completed, Globe envisions a robust and resilient network that can provide an unparalleled customer experience to set the company apart from competition.
 
The new Globe network and IT systems are not only designed to address all current customer needs but would also have the capacity and capability for more sophisticated use of mobile and broadband technologies.
 
“We are ahead of schedule, with more than 50% of the project completed,” added Cu.

Social media

On Monday, netizens went as far as blaming Globe’s main contractor, Huawei of China, for its modernization program for doing a “poor and very slow job.”
 
Cu, however, denied this. “We want to dispel rumors being spread in social media that we are having difficulties in modernizing the systems of Globe. I’d like to say that there’s no truth to this rumor. While building a new network and keeping the old one running is challenging, we are on plan and the modernized areas have yielded the results that we expect,” he said.

This is the second time Cu came out in fighting form against Smart. In late August, Cu blasted the competition for the bad publicity it has been receiving amid efforts to upgrade its old network to a modern one.
 
“That congestion was always there… It was only heightened because of the communication plan of our competitor to heighten it,” said Cu.

Smart is also undergoing a network upgrade but Smart spokesperson Ramon Isberto said the company received minimal and manageable complaints.

“It’s really more of a brand question. What is happening to your brand image and how customers are relating to their brand. Were just saying that we are focusing on our customers on offering them a better experience and I think the the brand message is coming through. Strategically, the most important thing is that we are delivering our promise to our customers,” added Isberto.

‘Shifters’

Smart has grasped opportunities from Globe’s signaling woes, bluntly enticing subscribers irate with poor service quality to shift to Smart in their marketing and advertising campaigns.
 
Smart’s Isberto said it has been signing up ‘shifters’ or subscribers from other mobile phone operators lately, citing social media posts of netizens.
 
“Our marketing people have been monitoring lately that we have had shifters from Globe. One indication is social media. People are talking about their complaints and what they have done about it. They are the ones saying that it was time to shift to Smart. I just don’t have the exact numbers now,” Isberto said.
 
In contrast, Globe consumer business head Peter Bithos said the cellular firm has been registering new subscribers. “For every 10 seconds, we have a one new subscriber signing up.”
 
Rebate
 
To appease irate Globe subscribers who were affected by the network glitch over the weekend they will be entitled to a rebate, said Globe spokesperson Yolly Crisanto.

“Yes, there will be rebates for bot h postpaid and prepaid through bill rebate and top-up load credits. We want to do it across the board but our marketing group is still determining the amount as a whole. We will be pro-active in identifying the affected subscribers regardless if they complain or not as long as the system was able to monitor their calls and text messages within the affected areas,” added the Globe spokesperson.
 
“Our technical group is still busy cleaning up so the affected number of Globe subscribers is still undermined,” Crisanto added. – Rappler.com

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