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PLDT Landline Plus goes prepaid: Turn any GSM phone into a portable “landline”

PLDT will launch this weekend prepaid plans for its Landline Plus service. The service, previously available only on monthly postpaid plans, gives consumers “fixed-wireless telephone lines.”

Calls to these wireless handsets, within a provincial area, are considered local connections and aren’t charged by the minute. The Landline Plus user is only charged by the minute for outgoing calls, not incoming ones. These handsets can also send and receive SMS messages.

PLDT Landline Plus PORTABLE LANDLINE. The PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid SIM running on the Sony Ericsson K8001. With the SIM, calls to this phone from a landline, whether Globe or PLDT, are considered local connections and are not charged by the minute. You know the SIM is active by the operator logo: it says PLDT instead of Smart. Click on photo to enlarge.

But the availability of prepaid plans is just an undercard (in boxing parlance) to what will be launched through TV ads during Manny Pacquiao’s fight this Sunday: Landline Plus is going GSM SIM-based.

It can now be used with any GSM mobile handset.

With the prepaid plan, not only are you free from being locked into the service for a year, you also no longer need to pay for the handset or activation fee. You also no longer need to submit applications and other required documents. You just buy the P100 SIM and insert it into a GSM handset that’s open line or locked to Smart and Talk and Text and you have a portable “landline.”

Handsets

If you’ve seen the handsets that come with the old (product age is relative, too) postpaid plans, most people would forgive you if you giggle. One handset looks like an actual wired telephone and a newsroom colleague was laughing when she told me she saw one on a car’s dashboard.

The other phone model looks like a remote control unit that came with TV sets sold two years ago. Still, I’d see people carrying it around with their regular mobile phones. PLDT officials told me that most users do not give up their main landline and cellphone even if they get a Landline Plus account.

Landline Plus is a very convenient service. It drastically cuts down on people’s phone bills. One of the PLDT officials who gave me the demo last Tuesday said the product is a hit among sales people because clients can now call them from their landlines, without racking up phone bills, even if they are mobile.

SMS messages

The ability to use Landline Plus with any GSM handset makes the service very usable for sending and receiving text messages. I have no experience using the old postpaid units for texting and I’m glad I don’t have to use it with the new service. With the service, you get a seven-digit phone number. Mine has the 515 prefix.

I once saw another colleague texting on his Landline Plus postpaid handset while we were watching the afternoon newscast and I had this urge to tell him not to change the channel. I didn’t tell him. He looked in a foul mood and was way bigger than me.

PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid comes in two monthly plans: P600 and P300. To start using the service, you just buy a P100 Landline Plus Prepaid SIM from stores that are already selling Smart SIM packs and e-loads. The P100 SIM already includes a P50 load that is valid for five days.

demo LANDLINE PLUS DEMO. PLDT and Smart people giving a demo on the new prepaid SIM for the PLDT Landline Plus service. Click on photo to enlarge.

To receive calls, you must load either of the two monthly plans. The P600 plan comes with 600 minutes of free calls and 120 text messages. The P300 plan comes with just 150 minutes of free calls, no free text messages. Outgoing calls are charged by the minute. If you are in a P600 plan, this amounts to just P1 per minute. Under the P300 plan, it’s P2 per minute.

By loading either of the plan, you can receive calls for the entire month.

But if you run out of load for calls and text messages, you can just buy credits in P30, P60 and other denominations in Smart and PLDT e-load stations stores, which are located practically on every street in urban centers.

Crisp, consistent connection

The PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid SIM works only within the province where it is activated. When you go out of the province, you cannot make and receive voice calls but you can send and receive text messages. This differentiates the portability of the PLDT service with that of the true mobility of its sister company’s products: Smart cellphones.

The PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid SIM works on any GSM phone but I suggest you use GSM only handsets instead of those units with 3G capability. I tried the SIM with the Sony Ericsson P1i and the handset insisted on using 3G connection so I had problems activating the SIM.

I tried it on my wife’s K800i with the connection set to GSM only and it worked flawlessly. But using the K800i with the Landline Plus SIM is just like buying the MacBook Air solely to keep a digital to-do list.

I’m scouring cellphone shops this weekend to look for sub-P1,000 phones, typically refurbished early Nokia units, to use with the SIM. I once saw a refurbished Nokia 5110 (my first phone, aaah the memories) sold for just P500. If I see it again this weekend, I’ll buy it for use with the Landline Plus SIM. Now that is really a portable “landline.”

I’ve used the Landline Plus Prepaid service for two days and have never encountered problems. Voice connections are crisp and consistent. Since I am still busy experimenting with my P1i, I asked my wife to use the SIM.

I called her on my office desk phone while she was on a taxi on her way home and for the first time, “sweet nothings” on a cellphone cost absolutely nothing.

The first few hours after activation, I encountered busy tones a few times when I dialed my mobile landline’s number, even if it wasn’t in use. After getting a busy tone, I’d redial the number and could get through. But after six or seven hours, this was fixed. The only time I wasn’t able to call my wife was when she went to a colleague’s house located in the outskirts of the city, where telecom signals were spotty when inside the house.

I am sure this service will be a hit when it is introduced to the market this weekend.

I am just curious, though, why it carries the PLDT brand instead of Smart. Could it mean that Smart will focus more on data, value-added and wireless Internet services and leave the traditional voice, even if wireless, to PLDT? A Smart official said they see the Landline Plus Service as something that will complement their wireless services and offerings.

I am sure that years from now, wireless data services will make up a bigger portion of telco revenues. Yes, even in the Philippines. The only question is when it will start happening. Maybe Smart is at the cusp of this next iteration of communications technology.

By Max Limpag

Max is a journalist and blogger based in Cebu City, Philippines. He is co-founder of the journalism start-up InnoPub Media.