Conversations surrounding the life of Filipino President Rodrigo

Despite its established competition ramping up speeds and telco offerings, Dito is still confident it can capture market share. Even with the departure of a key ally, a formidable market structure, tight coverage deadlines, and a failed fundraising attempt, Dito is trying to win customers. In a different way.

Friendly neighbourhood telco

People love an underdog story. A heart-wrenching one? Even better. That’s the image Dito has tried to carry since its launch, which kicked off with a free-for-frontliners campaign. Dito began operations in 15 cities by offering mobile phones along with Dito sims with mobile and internet services—all free of charge to Covid-19 frontliners.

Photos and testimonies of nurses, schoolteachers, doctors, and other essential workers happily holding the Dito goodie bag flooded social media. This contrasted against rising Covid case tallies and unemployment figures, sending a message of hope, support, and community.

By May 2021, Dito reached 100 cities and about 500,000 subscribers. Tamano credited this to the launch strategy. “Actually, Dito has celebrities and endorsers—our frontliners. They are our first customers,” he told The Ken. The telco knows how to get noticed during a crisis, which it demonstrated again when a category-five super typhoon hit the country.

It’s even in the brand name: Dito translates to “here”—it wants to show it’s present for Filipinos. “At Dito, we hear you and we are here for you,” the company’s tagline goes.

“We’re here”

Typhoon Odette ravaged the country over 10 days from December 12-22 and affected 16 million people across two of the Philippines’ three major islands. Power lines and cell towers went down, crippling the cell services provided by PLDT and Globe. But, according to company statements, local media reports, and residents, Dito’s cell towers largely remained operational, save for six “microsites”.

Dito’s towers are newer, which explains part of why it withstood the storm, Torio said. But more importantly, “the other two telecoms had trouble building towers in that area,” as easier telco permit procedures only came about during the Duterte administration. Also, Dito foreign partner’s tech support only shows the importance of a powerful tie-up from overseas for new telco players, he added.

PLDT and Globe’s focus on Manila could also explain the outages after the typhoon, which hit areas outside the capital region, Torio said. Most of the time, PLDT and Globe’s mobile services dissipate once you enter provinces: “most of the time, in far-flung areas, you’re unable to connect or use your phone to text or call. In rural areas, they’re still behind.”

Luckily for Dito, Uy and Udenna are headquartered outside Manila.

Over two weeks after the typhoon struck, PLDT had restored 83% of wireless services, while Globe had restored 70% of its mobile network services, according to government data. Dito, seizing the crucial two weeks, gave thousands of free SIM cards to residents of storm-stricken areas, regional disaster management offices, armed forces, and relief parties.

Crises aside, Dito hopes to appeal to the population by tapping into two of the nation’s favorite pastimes: mobile games and video streaming.