Phone compatibility an issue as Dito rolls out mobile services

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — Dito Telecommunity finds it “challenging” to make their SIM cards work fully with more mobile phones as it seeks to broaden its subscriber base, a company official said Monday.

Dito chief technology officer Rodolfo Santiago said it was hard to expand the network’s list of over 100 compatible devices as of May 10, which mostly include models made by Asian manufacturers Vivo, Oppo, Samsung, and Huawei. Apple’s iPhone are among those not yet compatible with the service.

"Medyo challenging nga ‘yun para sa amin kasi nga we have established a new technology, we don’t have 2G or 3G anymore. ‘Yung mga luma na still using 2G and 3G, mukhang talagang hindi siya pwede for our services,” Santiago said during the media briefing to mark Dito’s launch of its services in Metro Manila.

[Translation: It's quite challenging for us because we established a new technology, there's no 2G or 3G anymore. Those phones still using 2G and 3G, it appears they are really not usable for our services.]

This also includes older generation phones, or those that use keypads rather than touch screens. Another pain point is the compatibility of voice over LTE (VoLTE) services which the network offers for video calls which operate on voice call technology, not needing the internet or online messaging apps.

CNN Philippines tried to activate the Dito SIM card using smart phones which are not part of the compatibility list, but it would not go through.

“There are phones that cannot utilize 100% of the services of Dito,” Santiago added, noting that varying standards used by gadget makers could cause “very small technical issues” which may affect user experience.

“We are doing our best to provide superior service… We want Dito to be known as the one who was instrumental in improving the telecommunications service in the Philippines.”

Dito chief executive officer Dennis Uy said the third telco player is now accessible in 100 towns and cities in the country and has gained 500,000 subscribers in its first two months of operations.

READ: DITO Telecommunity launch in Visayas, Mindanao seen as 'big boost' in telco industry

5G connectivity is not yet available, but will be coming soon along with postpaid plans, Dito chief administrative officer Adel Tamano added.

Uy, President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign donor and close ally, operates Dito with China Telecom, which raised questions on data privacy and national security. Company officials have repeatedly denied this and said it will not allow the Chinese partner, which owns 40% of the company, to use the network to spy on Filipinos and on the Philippine government even as they put up cell sites inside military camps. 

Dito says it has built over 3,000 cell towers and will further expand coverage to meet its commitment to provide internet speeds of at least 55 megabits per second (Mbps) to more than half of the population by July this year. The new player seeks to break the duopoly of Smart and Globe by investing some ₱270 billion to build their own network in the next five years.

Tamano admitted that their services are “not yet perfect,” while Santiago noted that there are some “pockets” or areas where connectivity remains weak. “To be honest, in some areas where we have some challenge in terms of our rollout, we may not be superior to the incumbents," Santiago told reporters.

Dito promised to deliver connections at an average of 27 Mbps or faster on its first year, covering 37% of Filipinos. Independent speed tests done by CNN Philippines showed Dito recording speeds between 21 to 27 Mbps in Quezon City using 4G connections.

The average mobile internet speed in the country is at 25.43 Mbps, according to the Speedtest Global Index. This placed the Philippines in the 86th spot out of 140 countries.

Dito, formerly the Mislatel Consortium, must eventually cover 84% of the population or else it will lose its ₱25.7-billion performance bond it paid to the government.

READ: DITO to take advantage of number portability to corner 30% of market