PLDT, Smart commit 3-year network rollout to NTC

Chrisee Dela Paz
PLDT, Smart commit 3-year network rollout to NTC
According to the network rollout plan, Smart is rapidly expanding both the coverage and capacity of its LTE service

MANILA, Philippines – Smart Communications Incorporated will cover 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities with long-term evolution (LTE) by 2018, its parent company PLDT Incorporated said in its 3-year network rollout commitment to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

PLDT on Friday, July 22, submitted its 3-year rollout plan to NTC, which forms part of its commitment to the regulator when it approved the co-use arrangement between PLDT and the telecoms business of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

The submission of the 3-year network rollout plan was one of the conditions imposed by the NTC in approving the frequency co-use arrangement between Smart and BellTel. (READ: CA junks Globe’s plea to stop review of San Miguel telco buyout)

According to the plan, Smart is rapidly expanding both the coverage and capacity of its LTE service, using its existing frequencies combined with the new spectrum that it had gained from SMC.

“We are accelerating our LTE deployment because this will enable us to deliver faster, more reliable, and affordable Internet services throughout the country,” Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor at PLDT and Smart, said in a statement.

LTE, the fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone technology, is an Internet protocol network that delivers better data service experience compared to 3G technologies. 

LTE provides the fastest wireless data service commercially available, and is predicted by the recently released Ericsson Mobility Report to be the dominant mobile access technology by 2019 worldwide.

360 LTE cell sites

By the end of 2016, PLDT said Smart will finish deploying the 700 megahertz (MHz) covered by the co-use arrangement, to roll out LTE in 360 cell sites in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. (READ: Battle lines drawn over San Miguel’s telco buyout deal)

Using the 700 MHz and its existing frequencies, PLDT said Smart will cover nearly 40% of the country’s 1,634 cities and municipalities by the end of the year.

“Since its commercial launch in 2012, we have been deploying LTE in areas with high population concentration, where we have customers who have already purchased 4G/LTE handsets that can take advantage of the network and are using bandwidth-rich data services,” Horn added.

Under the new plan, the Manuel V. Pangilinan-led telco said Smart will deploy LTE to other key cities and major municipalities by 2017, and eventually cover 1,551 cities and municipalities by 2018.

Complementing the LTE network deployment, Horn said Smart is also working with device manufacturers to introduce more medium- to low-priced 4G or LTE handsets, tablets, and pocket WiFis that can run on multiple frequencies.

In the Smart network, almost 50% of the roughly 70 million PLDT subscribers are already using smartphones. (READ: San Miguel’s sale of telco business: Will consumers benefit?)

Horn said the majority of these are 3G or HSPA+ handsets, but the number of 4G or LTE handsets is rising fast, as the range of available models increases and handset prices decline.

“As more 4G or LTE device users access the internet, so will we see a surge in mobile data traffic,” Horn added.

PLDT said it expects that by the end of the 3-year LTE network plan, it will have installed the necessary transport system to connect its nationwide base stations to the core network, along with international cable systems that provide massive capacity, and facilities that will allow local caching of content.

“This is part of getting our network ready for the future, by putting in place the pipes that will accommodate the expected surge in data usage, and allow users to take advantage of speeds offered by next generation technologies such as LTE-A, and eventually 5G,” Horn said.

Part of the 3-year plan is the deployment of the next stage of development of LTE, called LTE-Advanced or 4.5G.  

Last April, Smart fired up the country’s first 4.5G service in the resort island of Boracay, using a feature of LTE-Advanced called carrier aggregation, or combining two or more frequency bands to deliver bigger bandwidth to mobile phone users.

PLDT has set aside about P43 billion in total capital spending budget for 2016. 

It has allocated an additional $100 million to utilize the additional frequencies previously assigned to SMC. –

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