San Miguel, over the past years, has aggressively moved away from its traditional food and beverage businesses and into heavy industries such as infrastructure, power, oil refinery, and telecommunications. Soon, they will enter the mobile phone business, becoming the fourth operator in the country, after a unit it acquired in 2010 began rolling out its mobile infrastructure ahead of commercial operation by January 2016.

Bell Telecommunication Philippines Inc., now a unit of San Miguel, said in a filing with the National Telecommunications Commission it concluded agreements with contractors and suppliers for the supply of various services, equipment and software related to the construction, operation and maintenance of a mobile telecommunications network.

BellTel said it was undertaking the rollout of its mobile network. BellTel would become the fourth player in the mobile phone industry, after the PLDT Group (Smart and Sun Cellular), Globe Telecom and ABS-CBN Mobile.

San Miguel also owns Liberty Telecoms Holdings Inc. and Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc. Liberty, through its subsidiary wi-tribe Telecoms Inc., provides data communications services, while Eastern Telecom renders Internet and data services.

BellTel said it integrated 197 base transceiver stations in the National Capital Region to its mobile telecommunication network. Of the integrated BTS, the NTC issued 191 radio station licenses.

“Belltell wil be applying for additional RSLs as soon as more BTS are integrated into its mobile network and will launch services as soon as sufficient coverage for a commercial launch is achieved,” the telco unit of San Miguel said.

“Belltel has to date expended considerable capital in relation to the acquisition and construction of sites as well as the acquisition and installation of core and radio access network equipment and software,” it said.

San Miguel president Ramon Ang said BellTel planned to launch the mobile broadband service in January next year. In 2010, San Miguel’s Vega Telecom Inc. acquired BellTel that would give the latter entry into the wireless voice, data and video connectivity business.

WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU, THE READER? A new hope in getting better services as opposed to the all-too-familiar failures of SMART and Globe Telecom is in the horizon. Since the San Miguel Group is sizable like those of Manny Pangilinan’s who owns PLDT and SMART, there will be indeed a shakedown ahead, unlike what happened to JG Summit’s Sun Cellular, that was absorbed into PLDT together with Digitel.

Let’s hope they do make it good, since wi-tribe has been quite stagnant lately. And with free beer, this time.

(cover image from Yugatech, articles from Manila Standard Today and techinasia)