CURE’s Red Mobile service seeks one million subs by end-2009

3 Jul 2009

Red Mobile, the 3G mobile venture relaunched by Filipino group Connectivity Unlimited Resource Enterprise (CURE) in November 2008, aims to sign up a million subscribers by the end of this year, and to that end yesterday officially started offering 2G services to pre-paid users. CURE, which is an affiliate of PLDT-owned Smart Communications, first entered the domestic market in May 2008 as uMobile, offering what it claimed was Asia’s first ad-based mobile service. In November 2008 however, CURE relaunched a W-CDMA with HSDPA cellular service – the fourth UMTS offering in the country to date. Initially Red Mobile’s service was marketed as a pre-paid affair which set out its stall to target the lower-value demographic currently being pursued by rival operator Digitel Mobile’s Sun Cellular unit – via low-cost calls, texts and mobile internet access. Red Mobile currently has close to 100,000 subscribers. ‘We are hoping to be close to a million within the year, [getting] around 800,000 to 900,000 subscribers within the next six months,’ a spokesman for the company said. Red Mobile hopes the move will increase its monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) by 10%, to around PHP100 (USD2.07) per subscriber.

Last month Sun Cellular filed a complaint against a rival for ‘unfair trade practices’, with the regulator the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), in a bid to put a stop to what it claimed were ‘fraudulent ads’ and ‘unauthorised’ services. In its filing, Sun Celluar said that Red Mobile’s 2G mobile services may be illegal. The operator sought a cease-and-desist order on Red Mobile’s service whose advertisements it claimed contained ‘erroneous information’ on Digitel’s wireless unit Sun Cellular. In short, Red Mobile claimed it could provide unlimited coverage utilising 8,477 cell sites, compared with Sun Cellular’s ‘limited’ service with only 3,230 sites. However Digitel, which offers ‘unlimited’ call and text services, said it had 4,603 sites as of May. Digitel also called on the NTC to investigate Red Mobile’s services, saying the latter’s permit is only for 3G services such as video calls and wireless broadband. However, Smart Communications says this complaint has already been ‘addressed by the CURE-Smart facilities agreement’, which states that Red Mobile can use Smart’s entire 2G and 3G networks. Moreover, Smart’s chief wireless adviser Orlando S Vea is quoted as saying that ‘finances of Red Mobile will be consolidated with Smart’s financial report, but CURE is still an independent entity.’