My permanent, retirement home is in Olongapo City, Philippines. It’s on the outskirts of the city, not in the downtown area. My wife, Josie, and I moved here in April of 2006 and we had our house built in the Santa Rita barangay (a suburb-like subdivision of the city). Broadband Internet wasn’t available to me until after our house was built. Before that, I had to use prepaid dial-up cards to get online at my mother-in-law’s house.
From November of 2006 until sometime before the end of 2010, I had DSL provided by Subic Telecommunications (Subictel). The highest broadband connection speed available to me at first was 512 kilobits, which I could barely call broadband. It gradually increased to almost 2 megabits before the company switched hands.
Subictel was bought out by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) sometime before 2010, but I don’t know when. It was after they bought out the Philippine Telephone Company, a separate company with a similar sounding name.
PLDT was supposed to migrate my service in August of 2010, when I signed the paperwork for it. The monthly amount I paid for DSL from Subictel was 2500 pesos. An increase to 3000 pesos was supposed to get me 3 megabits with PLDT. The migration finally took place in December and I did indeed get 3 megabits.
At some point during that period, a representative at PLDT told me I could increase my download speed to 5 megabits at no cost. I couldn’t do it because Josie was in the United States and everything was in her name, or so I thought.
I disconnected the DSL modem from the telephone line before I left the country in July of 2013. A sister-in-law’s husband turned everything in after I arrived in Phoenix because I had to get copies of Josie’s identification documents and send them to him. Oh, and a letter from her to them authorizing him to have the DSL and the regular telephone service turned off.
I was always investigating other broadband Internet choices in my area before leaving the country in 2013. Smart Communications and Globe Telecommunications offered Wi-Fi Internet, but their services weren’t any cheaper than PLDT’s DSL and they weren’t even close to being as reliable.
A sister-in-law had Globe Wi-Fi for a few months, but the signal was weak even when it wasn’t raining. When it was raining, the signal was nonexistent. Considering it rains off and on throughout the year and almost daily during the rainy season, it wasn’t worth the cost. In 2011 or 2012, she got the same DSL service I had but only at 1 megabit. I could tell because Josie often talked to her on Skype and the video always lagged even when it wasn’t blurry, which was almost always.
I was told cable Internet would be available in 2007 through Colorview CATV. When I left in July of 2013, it still wasn’t available in my area. It’s available now because Colorview upgraded the entire area to digital while I was gone. I still wouldn’t use it. We’ve suffered through many cable TV outages over the years, without cable Internet even being involved. I don’t trust their services for anything.
Josie and my younger son, Jonathan, were staying with my older son until just before I joined them for my longer than anticipated visit. They moved into an apartment before he and his wife transferred overseas (she’s in the Air Force).
Josie had an old mobile phone, which wasn’t a smartphone. I didn’t have or need a mobile phone of my own. She was still working back then, but I wasn’t. The apartment complex provided a Wi-Fi signal, which I used with a laptop. That free Wi-Fi signal was usually stronger than what I had in the Philippines.
Josie and I returned to the Philippines after Jonathan joined the Army, which wasn’t until nearly the end of 2014.
While I was away, the wireless carriers introduced LTE (which stands for “Long-Term Evolution”), a high-speed alternative to 3G wireless. Even PLDT, my telephone and DSL provider, got into the act. Smart Communications (which offers LTE separately) is a wholly owned subsidiary of PLDT, so I’m sure there’s shared infrastructure being used.
During brownouts, I’ve tried using the meager 100 MB data plan provided with my mobile phone service at no extra charge. It’s a 3G connection and it’s terribly slow. LTE may be available in 99 percent of the Philippines, but my area isn’t part of the 99 percent. That’s probably because there’s only one cell tower I can connect to and it isn’t even close to being “line of sight”.
I didn’t understand how important Wi-Fi would be here until I started using it. One of my sisters-in-law had my DSL installed again a couple of weeks before I returned. Instead of a regular DSL modem, they provided a Wi-Fi DSL router (which has already been replaced once).
Using data services through mobile carriers can be expensive. Using a Wi-Fi connection supplied from a standard broadband Internet connection like cable or DSL costs nothing extra. The only time I use the mobile phone data is when we have brownouts. I rarely use my mobile phone as an actual phone, to call or text other people.
I have PLDT Home, a DSL connection. I have to pay for a land line I never use. I was paying more for the 3 megabits before I left in 2013 than I’m paying now for 8 megabits. It was 5 when I returned but they silently upgraded us in February of this year, at least a month before they updated their website.
It costs me 2750 pesos per month (VAT included) which is around $60 USD. I’m not going to upgrade to a faster DSL plan. I’ll eventually get PLDT Fibr (using a fiber optic line instead of a phone line) but I’m not in a hurry. I don’t even know if it’s available on my street yet. It’s in place at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone but that doesn’t mean it’s available here.
The lowest plan for PLDT Fibr is less than what I’m paying now. They advertise a speed of up 50 megabits. They’re a usage cap of 80 gigabytes but I don’t plan on streaming anything, so I should be okay with it.
Originally published as multiple articles in 2013 and 2015 – Certain information has been updated and corrected.
By: RT Cunningham
May 15, 2016
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