#PHNet19 : 19 years of Philippine Internet

phnet19Just one year to go till the 20th!

I’m writing this on March 29, 2013, which just happens to mark the 19th anniversary of March 29, 1994, the day when the PhilNet network first connected to the Internet via an IP connection to a Sprint gateway in California.

Perhaps we should really reserve all the pomp and circumstance for the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the connection in 2014. But it’s always a good time to mark a milestone and see how far the internet economy and culture has progressed since the last time we marked it.

But let’s get the hashtag out of the way first, because you can’t mark an internet milestone these days without a hashtag. I suggest #PHNet19. So there.

Last year we commemorated #PHNet18 and marked it with a small meetup of some of the personalities who were part of the original event. This year, the anniversary falls on Good Friday, making a meetup not so feasible. So some commemoration via social media seems to be good enough,

By the way, if you just walked in and are blissfully unaware of what happened on March 29, 1994, here are a few links on this blog to bring you up to speed:

The Philippine Internet Turns 18, Is Anyone Still Counting?

The Night Benjie Tan Hooked Up the Philippines to the Internet

The Day the Philippines Hooked Up to the Net (Parts 1-6):

Based on the research I did for these pieces (originally written in 2001) , we are really commemorating two events:

03/29/1994 1:15 am – Benjie Tan, supervising the connection at PLDT’s network center makes the first test connection.
His Usenet newsgroup post documenting this is archived here.

03/29/1994: 10:18 am – Dr. Rudy Villarica announces that a connection to the Internet was made from Cebu.
Here’s an account of what happened in Cebu on that day. 

Either way, we have come to mark March 29 as THE day.

What changes have taken place in the local Internet scene since we last surveyed the landscape in 2012?

I’d say one of the most significant updates is the amazingly fast ascendancy of smartphones (and hence, the mobile internet) in the Philippines. Though overall penetration is low (at most, just 10-12% of the total mobile phone base of 102M) , the growth is fast – one stat estimates a growth of 300% in one quarter just looking at Android phones alone.

And then there is the commercialization of new internet access technologies such as LTE for mobile and fiber -to-the-home (what PLDT has branded as Fibr). While you will still read twitter messages of people complaining their connections are crap, the introduction of free LTE trials due to the launch of the iPhone 5 (and Apple finally flicking on the LTE switch for its phones in the Philippines) has spawned an epidemic of Instagrams showing mobile speedtests hitting close to 30 Mbps, much faster than the usual residential DSL connections.

It’s still early in the game, but as we continue to survey all the changes in the digital landscape of #PHNet19, we can also see the impending of shadow of #PHnet20 headed our way, and who knows what the next year will bring?

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