iPhone for Digitel subscribers soon?

Katherine Visconti
PLDT is considering offering the iPhone to Sun Cellular subscribers but Digitel's 3G coverage will need to be improved first

SUN AND APPLE? Sun will improve 3G access to put itself in the market as a potential iPhone carrier.

MANILA, Philippines – Digital Telecommunications Philippines (Digitel), the operator of the Sun Cellular mobile phone services, is mulling offering the iPhone but won’t likely be offering Apple’s iconic smart-phone this year. 

The possibility of Sun carrying the iPhone is being discussed, disclosed businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan who leads both Digitel and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), which operates the leading mobile phone service under the brand Smart. 


Before talks with Apple, Pangilinan said Sun would first need to improve 3G roaming capability. He believes Sun’s coverage can be increased by utilizing Smart’s large existing network. Given the iPhone’s capacity for heavy data usage and many buyers’ expectation of constant internet on the go, improving coverage first makes sense. 

Sun and Smart only came under the same umbrella in late October of 2011 when Pangilinan-led PLDT completed its acquisition of a 51.55% stake in Digitel. 

At a press conference on Tuesday, March 6, PLDT President Napoleon L. Nazareno said, “Since completion of the Digitel acquisition, several synergies have been identified for (increasing) savings.”

One he pointed to was sharing resources to extend Sun’s 2G and 3G coverage.

Pangilinan explained, “Currently their (Sun’s) coverage is only 6% on 3G. With the ability to connect to the infrastructure of Smart, which covers 60% of the total population, therefore that expands the coverage of Sun by approximately 10 times.”

If the networks combine resources, Smart’s 2 year P67 billion network modernization program will benefit Sun’s customers. The aggressive system upgrade will be completed by the end of 2012.

“Smart’s 3G network will expand 90% by the end of the year therefore we can afford the same 3G coverage to the Sun Cellular subscribers. So there is an argument to Apple to consider offering the same product on the Sun platform,” said Pangilinan. 

Smart began offering the Apple smart phone on December 15, 2011 after the company’s exclusive contract with competitor Globe expired.

Nazareno explained that the 2 year modernization program will have to be completed before Apple would be convinced to offer its iPhone through Sun. That likely means no iPhones on Sun until after 2012. 

Pangilinan said it would be difficult to speculate a timeline for offering the Sun supported iPhone since the company has to secure Apple’s approval.

Waiting for the iPhone may comes as bad news to Sun subscribers, but the increased internet access should make the wait more bearable. – Rappler.com

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