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Philippine carriers see surge in broadband subs, revenues amid COVID-19

The top two internet service providers in the Philippines experienced a surge in fixed broadband subscriptions and revenues amid the coronavirus pandemic, data collected by S&P Global Market Intelligence shows.

In the three months to June 30, PLDT Inc. saw a 14.30% quarter over quarter increase in total broadband subscribers. PLDT is owned by Hong Kong-based investment management and holding firm First Pacific Co. Ltd., and trades on the NYSE under the ticker PHI.

Competitor Globe Telecom saw the number of broadband subscribers rise 26.92% quarter over quarter to about 2.9 million, the data from Kagan, a research offering of S&P Global Market Intelligence, shows. "Demand for wireless connectivity escalated given that Filipinos were forced to stay and work/learn from home due to the pandemic," Globe said.

The Philippines is experiencing one of the longest lockdowns in the world. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed movement restrictions in mid-March as the country saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Restrictions were eased June 1, but a strict two-week lockdown was reimposed in the national capital, Metro Manila, on Aug. 4. Schools are also expected to implement distance learning via online classes.

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In terms of revenue, PLDT saw a 4.4% quarter-over-quarter increase to about 7.8 billion Philippine pesos, which it attributed to its increased installation capability after the initial lockdown period, as well as to the rise in prepaid fixed-wireless broadband sales. Meanwhile, Globe's broadband revenues rose 16% quarter over quarter to 6.7 billion pesos.

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PLDT experienced a sharp increase in network traffic of up to 25% in the early days of the lockdown, as well as international traffic congestion which it said has been resolved.

The company reduced its 2020 guidance for network investment from 64.6 billion to ₱48 billion.

Kagan forecasts steady growth of 21.7% for broadband in the Philippines in 2020 amid prolonged lockdowns and the growing demand for home broadband due to the coronavirus pandemic. But increased traffic is also expected to come with challenges, including greater infrastructure upkeep costs. In 2019, fiber broadband covered 21% of occupied households.

As of Aug. 17, US$1 was equivalent to ₱ 48.65.