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Exciting developments

One company is generating huge waves in the otherwise silent and steady waters of the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector.

Publicly-listed firm NOW Corp. has recently revealed that it is aggressively pursuing its push to become one of the country’s formidable TMT companies by using pre-5G or fifth generation technologies to enhance and expand its ever-growing broadband internet infrastructure in Metro Manila.

NOW said the deployment of its fixed wireless broadband infrastructure in Metro Manila will utilize new technologies such as millimeter waves and TDD Full Duplex  to deliver  broadband and cable TV connectivity to enterprises such as hotels, schools, hospitals, business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, as well as in commercial and residential areas. 

The company has earmarked P500 million for this undertaking with a projected subscriber base of a quarter of million by the end of five years.

According to NOW enterprise marketing head Kristian Pura, they have successfully tested two of ZTE’s latest wireless equipment with a capacity of 480 megabits per second and three gigabits per second links, connecting almost 10 times faster than any backhaul. 

Pura revealed that they have been installed to paying customers and will connect current and new hubs.

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NOW chief executive officer Mel Velarde earlier disclosed that the company’s adoption of an All Wireless Network Plan is motivated by two related global developments: first, Google Fiber has drastically reduced the deployment of hard fiber optic for its network build-up in favor of fiber-like performance of aerial fixed wireless network similar to the company, and second, AT&T of the US is using high-frequency millimeter waves to successfully connect enterprise clients using fiber in the air that offers 1.5 Gbps broadband connectivity.

Velarde said that by utilizing gigabit links on fixed wireless set-up, the company sees no need to deploy fiber optic in the early stages of its network build-up. This resulted in the firm’s financial requirement being reduced from P1.5 billion to P500 million but he quickly pointed out that they are prepared to scale upwards their All Wireless Network Plan when the need arises.

Because of the reduced financial requirement for the fixed wireless broadband rollout, the company board approved management’s plan to amend its application for 15 million preferred shares offering with 30 million warrants to five million preferred shares and 30 million warrants. But it also gave management the go-signal to pursue a scaled-up business plan costing P1.5 billion or more as the need arises.

Security Bank Capital has been appointed by NOW as financial advisor for ongoing initiatives in bringing institutional investors into the TMT company. The board gave management the flexibility to utilize various financial instruments such as private placement of strategic partners in cooperation with foreign and local institutions.

The management was also authorized to continue ongoing initiatives by PCCI Capital, China Bank Capital and Unicap for the underwriting of P500 million worth of preferred shares with warrants.

Velarde explained that in the early stages of their network build-up for the delivery of broadband technology, they do not need to dig grounds for hard fiber deployment, which is very expensive, and that will be utilizing tested wireless technology that delivers millimeter waves wireless gigabit links direct to customers’ rooftop.

NOW disclosed that it is tackling the digital divide head on by creating a transformational network that offers fiber-grade connectivity through the air, but at a fraction of the price.

The company said it has leveraged PMP technology to unlock underutilized 26GHz spectrum which is a blueprint for 5G fixed wireless; created the country’s first ever wide-scale carrier-grade wireless network that delivers end-user services of up to 700 Mbps; provided Filipino organizations with the first compelling alternative (or backup) to fiber connectivity, offering broadband and carrier-grade SLAs at affordable pricing and faster time to market; offered fiber-grade broadband that is 20-30 percent cheaper; and delivered converged broadband and cloud services via the NowPlanet.TV platform in partnership with News and Entertainment Network Inc.

NOW said that it launched in 2016 Fiber Air which guarantees the delivery of up to 700 Mbps internet speed and can withstand strong rains of up to 120 millimeter per hour, more than double Typhoon Ondoy’s rainfall volume of 56 mm per hour.

It noted that customers can choose between Fiber Air CIR and CIR burstable. Committed Information Rate (CIR) is a guaranteed broadband connection suitable for enterprises or businesses that need steady and dedicated internet connection such as hospitals, schools, BPOs, logistic companies, and other highly active businesses that need 24/7 internet services. On the other hand, CIR burstable connection is a combination of minimum bandwidth and a burstable bandwidth that customers can consume 80 percent of the time. The burstable speed acts as a boost to the CIR and is shared in a pool of only five to 10 subscribers. Customers can choose to have lower CIR, consistent with the client’s day-to-day operational needs, but can be expanded on days when there is a need for more. This is recommended for hotels, schools and can be used as a back-up connection.

New clients of NOW include My Town Properties located beside BGC which is 40 percent owned by SM, Manila Broadcasting Corp., WorkHaven which is a co working space in Linden Suites, Panahon TV, Tondo Medical Center and Diamond Hotel.

NOW has said that it will continue with its strategy of going after the lucrative enterprise broadband segment including commercial and residential buildings and bundling its broadband with value-added services such as software collaboration, cybersecurity, cloud services, IT manpower and managed services.

With the government pushing the limits as far as providing the entire country with the best broadband connectivity possible, it is indeed commendable that the private sector is taking the lead and giving the consumers alternatives. 

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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