Tell us about Radius. What are your services, your product offerings and your relationship with Meralco?
Well, Radius Telecoms is a 100-percent subsidiary of Meralco. It operates mainly on the franchise area of Meralco, which is really Metro Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and some parts of Bulacan offering data and Internet service. We’re 100-percent fiber company. And our focus is really enterprises and offering them our data and Internet services.
A partner or a competitor?
Aside from corporate customers, our customer base also includes carriers. In areas where they cannot put up their facilities, they order from us. In the same manner that in areas where we don’t have facilities, we order from them. These are fiber facilities put up in areas where, maybe, they have difficulty in putting up facilities. Because there are some areas where not everybody’s allowed.
So there’s a healthy relationship among carriers to cooperate as it is needed to serve the public.
They are not allowed because they don’t have franchise there or other reasons?
Yeah, maybe there’s a business reason, maybe the people who are in charge of the areas are no longer allowing additional facilities to be installed because they think it’s already enough. So if that situation occurs, there’s no stopping us from talking to each other, making sure that we support one another.
These facilities include cell towers?
No, since we’re not operating any mobile service. These are mostly fiber optic cables that are either attached to the poles because we’re a subsidiary of Meralco. A big portion of our facilities is really on the poles. And, in areas where attachment to the poles is not allowed, we dig the streets and put in conduits and put the fiber underground.
Do you think that the industry is already saturated for a third player?
Well, I believe there’s always room for something or someone better. As long as you’re trying to offer something better, then customers will be willing to open up and try. The intent of Radius is really to improve the customer experience. And as long as we are here to make sure that the rest of our competitors are also on their feet, then at the end of the day, the benefit will go to the customers.
Having 7,100 islands is really no joke. The fact that we’re not a contiguous piece of land makes it even more challenging.
The Philippines is always called the outlier for Internet sloth. What is causing this? You know, slowness?
Well, it’s a combination of a lot of things. Majority of the websites that are being accessed by Filipinos are abroad. You know, even on the Internet access, we have this colonial mentality. We’re so fascinated with what’s abroad. Unlike our neighbors in Korea or Japan where the content is mainly local, it remains local. For majority of Filipinos, you know, the website sometimes would be accessed outside the Philippines, which makes Internet expensive because the content is not localized.
How does slow Internet impact productivity and affect businesses?
Never in the history of businesses has telco played a very crucial role because almost everybody now wants to be connected. Why? It’s a global marketplace. Yeah. You’re no longer selling your services within the Philippines. You’re selling your services all over the world. And the Internet speed is very critical because it allows you to market your products globally. So, you know, if the Internet is fast, then the exchange of information is going to be fast. And it’s going to, you know, result in more business activities.
Talking about the speed, do you think that because the Philippines is an archipelago with more than 7000 islands, is that a factor that affects Internet speed as far as infrastructure and other services are concerned?
Yeah, that’s why you have a situation where, in the cities, the Internet speed is bearable. But when you go outside the city, it becomes unbearable because it takes a lot of money to put up these facilities all over the country. Having 7,100 islands is really no joke. The fact that we’re not a contiguous piece of land makes it even more challenging. But, you know, we’re not stopping. I think the solution is not Radius. But, if all the carriers work together to make sure that we improve Internet services here in the Philippines, then, you know, our collective effort will come to fruition.
There’s no government investment in this area?
In fairness to the government, I think they’re doing their share like the DICT. With its new leadership, it is trying to put up a broadband network all over the Philippines. Once that is established, it’s going to improve connectivity.
In other countries the government is investing in telcos like providing facilities or cell towers, unlike here where it’s all private initiatives.
Yeah, the competition is so fierce in the Philippines. I think we’re one of the few countries where towers are not being shared. That’s why I think the government is trying to embark on a common-tower policy, you know, to make sure that, you know, we minimize the investment.
What’s your take on the common-tower initiative of the government?
I think eventually it will benefit the consumer because rather than the two carriers putting up their own, there’s a common tower and a firm that will put up these towers and eventually they will just lease the facilities.
Well you stated that Radius is only offering data services and not voice services. Aside from that how are you different from existing telcos?
Aside from data and Internet services, a big focus right now is access to the cloud. You know, there are a lot of cloud providers like AWS, Azure, 365, Google Cloud services — a lot of these companies in the Philippines are now trying to access these cloud providers to put in their data. So part of the focus of Radius is to allow these companies to access these cloud services in a fast, secure and better way.
Tell us about your expansion plans
We have just finished our expansion in Clark. We hope to be in Cebu by the first quarter 2020. The team went to Iloilo, and they were amazed at the progress in that part of the country. We’re also looking possibly at Davao. Just little by little — baby steps, before we decide to run. We’re looking at areas where businesses are flourishing because that’s where I think Radius has the competitive advantage because we are focused on what we want to achieve. And we’re focused on the markets that we want to serve.
The services that you’re offering, you’re targeting more the business establishment. How about the consumer market?
Well, the retail market eventually will be indirectly involved because we’re launching a partnership with Cignal, which is also part of the group because right now, Cignal is being offered through satellite dishes. What we intend do is focus on MDUs or condominiums, and wire up these condominiums with fiber optic and then allow Cignal to offer IPTV and Internet services. The intent is that Cignal is going to be the customer-facing entity. We’ll just be supporting them through our fiber facilities and Internet services.
So that explains the different services or products that you have?
Well, the data products are really about connecting branches either through leased lines, MPLS. Normally companies connect their branches to their head offices. The other one is through the Internet. It’s not a direct connection to their specific companies, but it’s a direct connection to the Internet, and that’s where they meet. And then the third one is really access to the cloud, meaning for companies who have mobile users, people who have to go out of the office just to access their applications. And we provide products that will allow them to. You know, security is a very important concern right now of the company. So the services we provide is a fast and secure way to access these platforms.
What are these products that you offer in that area?
The first product is RCE (Radius Cloud Express), a service that allows them to access the cloud and the other one is SD One, software-defined wide-area network. You know, these are new technologies that will allow companies to connect to other branches in the coming years.
On new technologies because we have to keep abreast with the times and make sure that we are competitive globally.
Radius has been existing since 2000. But now is the only time you decided to expand. Why is that?
Well, we have a new president for Meralco. And his really vicious vision is really to expand outside the comfort zone. So we have decided to be comfortable to be uncomfortable. That’s the mandate of our president.
Radius is a subsidiary of Meralco, and Meralco is part of the MVP group, which owns also Smart Communications and PLDT. How would that play out?
There is no conflict because the mandate that was given to me is to find a way to work with PLDT. Because, you know, since telecoms is a very important component of how businesses are operating these days, they don’t rely on just one carrier. You rely on multiple carriers. So the vision of our chairman is to be able to go into the market with both PLDT and Radius, backing each other up. So in customers where PLDT is very strong, Radius is going to be there as the backup. in situations where Radius is the strong partner of the customer, then we will be bringing PLDT. Because we believe that if we partner together, if we can find a way to make this work, then we will almost be unbeatable. Because if we combine our facilities, if we combine our resources, we’ll be able to serve the total requirements of the market. There would be times where we would be competing with each other, but I’d like to keep that to a minimum. We’d like to focus on opportunities where we can really help each other. And I think the fact that we have common owners on top will make that task easier.
What areas are there do you think there are opportunities for you to collaborate?
In the BPO, in the banking sector, definitely in the retail sector. I think it’s a matter of just focusing on a few of these verticals. We cannot be, and I don’t intend for us to partner in all the industries. But if we can find two, three or four major customers on whom we can create an impact it will be a huge plus for both companies.
The immediate plan really is just expansion. Just focusing on areas where businesses are flourishing. You know, trying to support the government’s efforts to help in the digitalization of the whole country. You know, we’d like to believe that we’re a company that will ignite innovation because we believe in the Filipino, we believe in the Philippine enterprise. And Radius is going to be here to make sure that they have the tools that will be necessary to compete.
What are the infrastructure that will be required for this expansion?
We’re rolling out fiber all over the country. Because at the end of the day, this is the major component of what we do. You know, we connect cities, we connect buildings, we connect businesses. So that’s going to continue. Of course, we’re going to be heavily investing on equipment. On new technologies because we have to keep abreast with the times and make sure that we are competitive globally. Apart from the customer base, we’re also serving these foreign telcos, these foreign carriers who are customers here in the Philippines. So majority of them are customers and we provide connectivity on the Philippine side to make sure that their global customers are connected.
What impedes startups to invest
It’s the return on the investment. It’s very difficult. You never know especially if you’re a start up, getting permits from local government units just to put up all these facilities is a pain. You hear of the other carriers complaining about permits and putting up towers, we’re also having the same problems. Every time we put up fiber facilities and attach them to poles, we need permits from the barangay, from the city. It slows down the work. This is one of the major challenges more than the cost. It’s really trying to be patient and working together. It has improved over the last few months that I’ve arrived.