Smart to use 700 MHz band to boost LTE network

Rappler.com
Smart to use 700 MHz band to boost LTE network
The telco says its new acquisition will lead to faster expansion of network coverage

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) revealed its plans to use its recently acquired portion of the 700 MHz band to boost its high-speed Long Term Evolution (LTE) data network.

PLDT’s subsidiary Smart Communications will start using the 700 MHz frequency this year as part of the accelerated deployment of its LTE service, said PLDT in a statement on Monday, June 6.

LTE, the 4th-generation or 4G mobile phone data technology, currently provides the fastest wireless data service commercially available.

PLDT and Smart chief technology and information advisor Joachim Horn said they are planning a two-legged approach to the rollout.

“First is the network, deploying LTE on 700 MHz combines a powerful frequency with the most advanced mobile phone technology. Combined with other frequency bands, LTE on 700 MHz will help expand the coverage and enhance the capacity of our data network at a faster pace,” Horn said.

“Second are the devices. We have been holding discussions with device manufacturers so that more affordable LTE smartphones and tablets using 700 MHz will soon be available in the country.  This combination of advanced network and devices will enable allow us to provide the best digital experience to our customers,” he added.

The low-band 700 MHz has a longer range and provides better indoor coverage than high-band frequencies. 

PLDT gained access to this and other additional frequencies in a deal involving rival Globe Telecom and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) that was announced last week. (READ: San Miguel selling telco assets to PLDT, Globe)

Under the terms of the deal, SMC agreed to sell its entire telecom business to PLDT and Globe, along with its 700 MHz band allocation.

The deal was seen by many analysts as closing the door on a potential 3rd telecom player for the foreseeable future. While analysts generally view the deal as a win for all 3 firms, they, along with the Philippine Competition Commission, are unsure if it will ultimately benefit consumers.

Long Term Evolution

Smart pointed out that while the majority of its wireless customers, along with the customers of its sister brand Sun, are using the slower 3G or HSPA handsets, the number of LTE handset users is rising fast as more models are released and phone prices decline.

“As LTE devices become more affordable and accessible, we are at the same time stepping up our efforts to deploy our LTE service using the most efficient set of frequencies,” Horn said.

According to UK-based global analyst company CCS Insight, LTE devices shipped rose from 443 million in 2014 to 900 million in 2015. This year, LTE-capable devices are expected to account for half of all smartphone shipments worldwide, rising up to about three-quarters of the global market by 2020.

Smart is also in the middle of a 3-year network improvement program that includes a number of simultaneous initiatives. 

One of these initiatives is to synergize Smart and Sun networks in order to improve the coverage, along with expanding the rollout of Smart’s 3G and 4G services.

The firm is also planning the next stage of LTE development called LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), also referred to as 4.5G, which enables speed of up to 250 Mbps. 

Last April, Smart set up the country’s first 4.5G service in the resort island of Boracay, using a feature of LTE-A called carrier aggregation.

PLDT said it has set aside about P43 billion in total capital expenditure for 2016 with an additional allocation of $100 million (P4.626 billion) to utilize the additional frequencies now available to Smart as part of the deal with SMC. – Rappler.com

$1 = P46.27

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