Smart targets Metro Manila for LTE coverage expansion

Chrisee Dela Paz
The telco says its subscribers can experience improved coverage and quality of voice calls, SMS, and mobile internet as it expands its network in the next 3 months

DEPLOYING MORE. 'This is a key part of our efforts to transform the PLDT and Smart network into the country'€™s most future-ready data infrastructure, delivering a wide range of gigabit digital solutions,' says Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman and CEO of Smart and PLDT. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Smart Communications Incorporated, the mobile subsidiary of PLDT Incorporated, promised to bring better mobile data services to homes and offices across Metro Manila in 3 months’ time.

Smart said in a statement on Sunday, January 15, that it is undertaking major network expansion in Metro Manila over the next 3 months.

Through this coverage expansion, the telco said its subscribers can experience improved coverage and quality of voice calls, SMS, and mobile internet, particularly its long term evolution (LTE) service.

“The biggest gain will be in indoor LTE coverage, which will quadruple, while indoor 3G coverage will double in Metro Manila,” Smart said.

Its parent company, PLDT, last year signaled one of its most ambitious and costly efforts to expand its network coverage. It spent a high of P48 billion in 2016 mainly to improve data coverage and capacity. But for 2017, PLDT is looking at trimming its capital spending budget to about P40 billion to maintain a positive cash flow.

“Smart is rolling out the fastest and most powerful mobile data network in the country, and we are focused on improving indoor coverage since we know that people use mobile internet services mostly indoors, particularly in Metro Manila – in their homes, offices, restaurants, coffee shops, and the like,” Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart, said in the statement.

According to Horn, Smart is deploying new base station equipment in about 2,500 cell sites across Metro Manila.

“This is a key part of our efforts to transform the PLDT and Smart network into the country’s most future-ready data infrastructure, delivering a wide range of gigabit digital solutions,” said Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman and CEO of Smart and PLDT.

Horn added that Smart will utilize low-frequency bands such as 700 megahertz (MHz), 850 MHz, and 900 MHz for its LTE and 3G services, since these frequency bands cover a larger area and provide better indoor signals.

Smart’s rollout also includes deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz, to increase the capacity of each Smart cell site to handle more calls, texts, and mobile data traffic.

PLDT and its rival Globe Telecom Incorporated bought all of the telecommunications assets of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) for P69.1 billion to get hold of the valuable spectrum.

PLDT and Globe said the buyout was made to improve their services, but independent researchers claimed the move was done to prevent a 3rd major telco player from coming in. It was last year when SMC announced that it would launch a 3rd major telco player with or without a foreign partner.

The SMC telco buyout deal was even placed under the scrutiny of the Philippine Competition Commission, which was stopped by the Court of Appeals from reviewing the agreement.

Network improvement program

It was in early 2016 when Smart started its network overhaul program in Boracay and Metro Davao.

Currently ongoing in Metro Cebu, the program will also be rolled out in other parts of the Philippines to improve the mobile internet experience of the rest of Smart’s user base – the largest in the country.

“We are accelerating our LTE deployment because LTE, an all-IP (internet protocol) network, delivers a superior experience to customers, particularly for data,” Horn said.

At the same time, Smart said it is working closely with leading handset manufacturers to bring more affordable LTE handsets to the Philippine market. (READ: PLDT, Smart commit 3-year network rollout to NTC)

In the 3-year network rollout plan that PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in July last year, Smart said it will make LTE available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

Even with LTE as the focus of Smart’s nationwide network improvement program, Horn added that it is just part of a broader effort to improve the overall quality of service for Smart, TNT, and Sun subscribers.

Late last year, PLDT completed the integration of the Smart and Sun mobile networks, enabling Smart to install more new base stations for 2G, 3G, and LTE technologies to better serve the subscribers of both brands.

Anticipating the rise of bandwidth-heavy services like video streaming and gaming, Smart also began in April 2016 the rollout of the country’s first LTE-A service, using a capability called carrier aggregation.

Initially deployed in Boracay and soon in major urban areas such as Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, and Metro Manila, Smart said its LTE-A service delivers peak speeds of more than 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable devices. – Rappler.com

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