NTC mulls new rules on mobile data capping

Posted at 02/07/2014 5:23 PM | Updated as of 02/08/2014 10:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - After receiving numerous complaints against Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, the National Telecommunications Commission is now mulling the possibility of implementing new guidelines to cover mobile data capping.

NTC director Edgardo Cabarrios said the regulator is studying whether new rules are needed to cover mobile data capping by telcos.

"We are now studying if there is a need to promulgate new rules to cover this issue," he said.

Globe and Smart subscribers have complained of the telcos' fair use policy, which limits the use of mobile data services if daily or monthly limits are exceeded.

Under Globe's policy, subscribers are allowed up to 1 gigabyte per day or 3 gigabytes worth of mobile data consumption per month. Smart allows up to 1.5 gigabytes per day or per month, whichever comes first. Usage beyond this will automatically downgrade the subscriber's signal to 2G, which is much slower.

The NTC has already asked Globe senior vice president Froilan Castelo to appear before the regulator on February 13 to explain its data capping policy.
 
"The Commission has received several complaints on your alleged data capping. Complaints alleged that you are placing them on the network with slow data connection once they reached a certain volume of data of 1 gigabyte," NTC Commissioner Gamaliel A. Cordoba said.

Cordoba also asked Castelo to submit its position on the complaints it has received against Globe on or before February 12.
 
Meanwhile, Globe's Castelo said the company had implemented the fair use policy in 2010 to cover prepaid calls, text and data promos.

However, Globe enforced the fair use policy for postpaid data plan subscribers only in January. The telco said it wanted to protect the data experience of majority of its subscribers who use the network for work or leisure.

"The fair use policy is an industry issue that is being implemented by all telco players in the country, even globally in the most advanced economies," Castelo said.

With more Filipinos using smartphones and tablets, there has been a surge in network data usage. Globe said network data traffic reports showed a surge of over 300% during peak hours over the last 2 years. Data usage reached 47 gigabits per second (Gbps) in 2013 from only 12 Gbps in 2011.

Globe noted heavy users accounted for less than 3% of total data subscribers, but they consume a significant amount of network capacity which leads to degradation of network performance.

"We want our customers to understand that the ultimate goal of the policy is to protect them because we want the regular data users who use the internet for work or leisure to have a consistently great data experience. Heavy users will affect their experience and this is what we are guarding against," he said.

Telcos can impose 'data cap'

NTC's Cabarrios reiterated that telcos can impose a cap on their subscribers' data consumption, but the subscribers have to be informed about this before they sign up for the plan.

"This should be communicated well with the subscribers. Consumers have the right to know what they are getting into," he said.

Cabarrios said most of the complaints the NTC received are against Globe, although it has also received complaints against Smart.