Smart Communications eyes boom in mobile social networking

As text-savvy Filipinos become the world’s most prolific social networkers, leading wireless services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) says social media will go mobile in a big way in the next few years.

Smart Netphone 701 Social Media Phone
Smart Netphone 701 Social Media Phone

According to Smart’s Chief Wireless Advisor Orlando B. Vea, new devices and platforms coupled with cheaper access costs is bringing social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook from PCs and laptops onto handheld devices like smartphones and tablets.

“Every day, more and more people are posting updates on the go. About a million of our subscribers are already accessing Facebook on their mobiles regularly.” said Vea. “This shift starting to take place, and Smart is the forefront of this change.”

Last week, Smart launched its Netphone, an Android 2.2 smartphone that has been designed to offer innovative web and social media services using the SmartNet service delivery platform.

Among its various features, the Netphone allows users to access Twitter, Facebook and its own SmartNet Chat services for free.

“The Netphone will accelerate the shift to mobile internet and social media,” Vea said.

The social media boom

Local carriers are trying to capitalize on the explosion of social media usage among Filipinos.

Recently, the Philippines was reported to be leading the world in terms of Facebook penetration with an estimated 93.9% of its Internet population accessing the site regularly.

The latest figures from (one of the world’s leading social media statistics portal) peg the current number of Filipino Facebook users at 26.5 million—a huge jump from an estimated 1 million in 2008.

Up to this point however, Filipinos are accessing these social networking sites largely through web-connected PCs in Internet cafes, homes, and offices.

A recent survey by the polling firm Nielsen indicated that the place of internet access was shifting from Internet cafes (down to 66% in 2011 from 71% in 2009) to homes (up to 35% from 27% in the same period. This apparently reflects the growing number of Filipino homes that have acquired web access in the past 3 years.

Web access via mobile phones however remained flat at 4 to 5 percent. This, however, seems ripe for change.

The shift to mobile

The shift to mobile is already showing up in the global microblogging service site Twitter. Its CEO Dick Costolo told the tech press in San Francisco last week that the number of active monthly users of Twitter has soared to more than 100 million, with the majority of people logging in on the go.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth on mobile,” he said.

To promote the growth of mobile internet and social media usage in the country, Smart has introduced a series of new products and services to help Filipinos get and stay online.

Since last year, Smart has been pushing sales of web-enabled smartphones, particularly medium-priced and low-cost handsets to encourage people to go online while on the go.

It has also taken steps to promote mobile social media. In July this year, for example, Smart launched in the Philippines the HTC ChaCha, the world’s first smartphone with one-touch Facebook access.



In the same month Smart also introduced the Facebook for Every Phone app which enables Java-enabled feature phones to access Facebook services for free with a smartphone-like interface.

Changing the game

On September 10, Smart officially launched the Netphone, which it expects to be a game changer for mobile internet and social media usage.

The Netphone runs on the SmartNet mobile platform which allows subscribers to post and read status updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts at no cost.

This is thanks to Smart’s patented “Safe Browse” technology which enables Netphone users to enjoy Smart’s Internet services without worrying about hidden or unintended charges.

This feature was developed by Smart because smartphones are typically designed for western markets where consumers usually have unlimited or “always-on” data services.

Safe Browse makes “Internet-snacking” possible as it lowers bandwidth consumption, thus, helping ensure that the quality of service remains high even on a 2G connection.

“The Netphone and SmartNet will change the mobile landscape. This is a phone designed by Filipinos and it is made specifically for emerging markets such as the Philippines,” Vea said.

“And the good news is that, this is just the beginning. We will be rolling out more services and more devices in the near future,” Vea added

Superior network

To support the expected growth of mobile internet and social media traffic, Smart and parent company Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) are undertaking a two-year, P67 billion network transformation program.

This involves the comprehensive modernization, installation, and optimization of network elements such as fiber optic cables, wireless base stations, and international gateways. The endeavor aims to enable PLDT and Smart’s combined infrastructure to provide unparalleled Internet-based services to its customer for years to come.

“What we’re doing is an end-to-end solution: we’re offering the best services on the best network, with the best devices. This is all in line with our effort to bring the power of the Internet into the hands of every Filipino,” he ended.