Free 3G, the perfect CURE?

20 May 2008

Mobile telecoms company Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprise (CURE), owned by PLDT’s mobile arm Smart Communications, has announced plans to offer 3G services for ‘free’ in return for mobile advertisement, said CURE chief executive Ardie Balderrama at a press conference to launch the newcomer’s ‘umobile’ brand on the market. Balderrama said the cellco was initially targeting the 15 to 35 age bracket, or those that belong to the so-called ‘youth and yuppies’ sector. The Sun Star online portal notes that the 15 to 35 age bracket accounts for roughly 45% of the Philippines’ current 89 million population. Unlike traditional business models, umobile will be offering an ad-funded service – a first for Asia – to post-paid users. Balderrama said ‘approved’ subscribers would initially receive PHP100 (USD2.33) loaded on their phone free for six months (i.e. during the promotional period, which begins 1 June) and will get additional top-ups for every advertisement they receive. ‘For our subscribers, that will be like earning money or credit by watching commercials on television or viewing print ads in newspapers and magazines except they do it through their mobile phones,’ he said.

At launch, CURE’s 3G network will be available in Metro Manila, but it has already made agreements with Smart Communications to share facilities to provide nationwide coverage beginning next month. As well as targeting services which make use of UMTS technology, the newcomer will also offer basic voice calls, SMS and MMS services to 2G users. CURE is hoping to sign up an average 10,000 customers per months, or a total of 100,000 by the end of this year. It is in the final stages of signing contracts with potential advertisers – including firms selling consumer products and fast food – and has inked interconnect contracts to allow users to text and phone numbers on the networks of Smart, Piltel, PLDT and Bayantel. Balderrama says the operator is also in talks with Digitel (Sun Cellular) and Globe Telecom for possible connectivity.