The _in_ thing in the Philippine telco market today is the wireless landline service. It’s somehow a mix of mobile phone service and landline service: the focus is on voice calls, but the service is usually not limited within a home or office.
There are various reasons why the Philippines is called the texting capital of the world. For one, text messaging is cheaper than voice calls (at least in the country). Secondly, Filipinos are known not to be a bit on the shy side when it comes to communicating. So we would rather text than call because the impersonal nature of texting serves as a veil between the communicants–one doesn’t have to worry about emotions or reactions. And for the forgetful ones like myself, I like keeping info (or agreements!) in my SMS inbox, so I won’t forget.
The recent upsurge of “wireless landline” services, however, goes to show that telcos are tapping that unused capacity of their networks in bringing about a new service–something I would call a “hybrid” one, but something that others may consider bordering on marketing gimmick.
Until recently, wireless landline services had to be exclusively subscribed-to, and required exclusive handsets. Some networks even use systems that are not same as the most widely used standard here, which is GSM. Bayantel, for one, uses CDMA. And until recently, using wireless landline services meant using a full-sized telephone apparatus, complete with the wired handset and the base with antenna. Portable, true. But one might look silly walking around at the mall speaking into what looks like a wired landline phone (at least that was what I thought when the service first came out a year ago).
But then the candybar-type handsets came to be popular, also. These were as portable as your usual mobile phone, but without the limitation of per-minute charged calls.
And for about a year after wireless landline services were introduced, these were usually postpaid plans with unlimited outgoing calls and SMS messages. But now the trend is going towards prepaid.
Hands on with PLDT’s wireless landline service
So I’ve wanted one for the longest time. My wife preferred the large apparatus type unit (if ever we were to go for one). But we didn’t feel the need for it yet. So it was way below our to-do / to-acquire list. But I got an offer from fellow blogger Jepoy, who was giving out prepaid PLDT Landline Plus SIM cards.
What was really great about the PLDT service was that it was no longer limited to specialized handsets. One could acquire a PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid SIM card, plug it into any GSM phone (Smart locked or unlocked), and voila! You have service!
I got my SIM card in the mail this afternoon (after much anticipation through the weekend) and tried it out. Here are some photos and my initial thoughts.
* The service functions much like a regular prepaid GSM subscription, albeit a basic one. There’s caller ID, but there are not much bells and whisltes (like wireless Internet, call waiting, call forwarding, etc.)
* Voice quality is good–I would expect this of the Smart network. It does have an echo sometimes, though.
* Coverage is good so far. I would expect this of Smart, too.
* Interconnectivity is good, so far. From my Bayantel landline at home, I could connect 100% of the time. Other reviewers, though, say that interconnectivity is iffy at about 75%.
I tried the SIM on my LG KU250 (the one stolen and recovered). And for one to use a “wireless landline” SIM on such a phone would be overkill, as Max Limpag would say. The data connectivity features of the phone would just be put to waste. So later this week I’m off to get myself a cheapo basic phone (much like what I use as my main phone).
I had no problems activating the SIM from my home office. Jepoy says you need to be in an area where the Smart cell site is already upgraded to handle PLDT wireless landline activation. No problem on my end, though.
Jepoy posts a comparison between two of the more popular prepaid wireless landline services here. I’m a loyal Bayantel user, so I initially wanted to get a Bayantel wireless landline phone. But then I would have to purchase a new handset altogether (which is incompatible with the rest of the country’s networks), and a dedicated SIM. The advantage, though, is that Bayantel has per-call charging, while PLDT’s is per-minute. But that’s for outgoing calls. Knowing how ingenious we can be at penny pinching, many users would probably just use the outgoing calls to ask the other end to call back.
Then again, as earlier mentioned, the telcos may have just found a really smart way to extend the use of their existing networks by marketing the service as a “wireless landline” service, when they could, in fact, just introduce cellular plans that are more focused on cheap voice calls rather than text.
I’ll be road testing this service soon, so watch out for more insights.