Telecommunications has become one of the lifeblood of the modern world. It happened to be the driving force behind massive changes and multitudinous advances in the society, impacting all individuals in all spheres of life.

In the Philippines, such big and influential industry is more commonly associated with astute businessman Manuel “Manny” V. Pangilinan who currently holds the top position in the country’s leading telecommunications and digital services provider PLDT, Inc. With the company’s wide range of products and services, together with the success it has achieved over the years, Mr. Pangilinan is often dubbed as the local “telco king.”

It was in 1998 when Mr. Pangilinan took over the PLDT after First Pacific Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong-based firm also founded by the now 73-year-old business magnate, bought a 17.5% stake in the formerly-known Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company. The acquisition made First Pacific the majority owner of the PLDT thus, naming Mr. Pangilinan as its new president and chief executive officer who brought in a new culture in the company.

Despite some challenges brought by the changing times, PLDT remains steadfast in fulfilling its commitment to serve the nation and provide communications solutions to Filipinos.

In 2018, the telco conglomerate continued to expand its fiber optic cable network, providing the vital foundation for further developing and modernizing the group’s fixed and mobile networks. It ended the year with a total fiber footprint of 244,000 kilometers. PLDT Home’s fiber coverage reached a total of 6.3 million homes. At the same time, total capacity reached 2.6 million ports with about one million ports available for sale.

Meanwhile, Smart Communications, Inc., the wireless unit of PLDT, likewise stepped-up the deployment of Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) networks and carrier aggregation technology across the country, enabling it to fulfill its commitment to the government to provide mobile broadband services to 90% of the country’s cities and municipalities by end-2018.

In the same year, PLDT and Smart fired up the country’s first 5G cell sites in Makati City and Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. According to the firm, the 5G opens up exciting possibilities for Internet of Things (IoT) applications for the transport sector, traffic management, manufacturing, airport and mall operations, logistics and warehousing, retail, customer support, and smart homes, among others.

To serve the ever-changing needs of customers in the digital landscape like the growing demand for video, gaming and smart home solutions, PLDT and Smart also expanded their portfolio of products and services and unveiled a host of new innovations.

Likewise, PLDT’s digital innovations arm Voyager Innovations, Inc. continued to step up its efforts in enabling every Filipino to participate and thrive in the new economy through its inclusive financial ecosystems.

Voyager’s PayMaya, the country’s leading e-wallet app, became the first non-bank institution to join InstaPay, an electronic fund transfer service that allows customers to transfer funds almost instantly between accounts of participating banks and non-bank e-money issuers under the supervision of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

In October 2018, Voyager welcomed KKR, Tencent, IFC, and IFC Emerging Asia Fund as new investors, raising a total of $215-million funding. This marked the largest investment to date in a Philippine technology firm.

Amid PLDT’s efforts to bring its operations to world-class standards, its commitment to enrich the lives of the Filipino people remains at its core. The group continued to contribute in improving the quality of life of Filipinos through its various corporate social responsibility programs that span from digital literacy, disaster preparedness and response, sustainable livelihood, up to environmental protection.

As a testament to all the milestones that the PLDT and its subsidiaries have achieved, Mr. Pangilinan was named Telecom CEO of the Year in 2018 at the Telecom Asia Awards, the longest-running industry awards program in the region that seeks to recognize premier service providers and telco executives.

“I accept this award with caution and humility,” Mr. Pangilinan said. “I am very mindful that in this age of relentless disruption, each new day brings fresh challenges. If anything, this award serves as a reminder that we must keep striving to reinvent our businesses and improve the lives of our people.”

To attain higher levels of growth this 2019, the PLDT, according to Mr. Pangilinan, is geared to keep on improving customer experience, while being mindful of the future and staying focused on transforming PLDT and Smart into one digitally enabled team.

“Given these initiatives and the positive momentum built up in 2018, we expect service revenues to rise and our Telco Core Income to grow to P26 billion in 2019,” Mr. Pangilinan was quoted as saying in PLDT’s 2018 annual report. — Mark Louis F. Ferrolino