"Welcome back to the Philippines!" was the message that greeted Smart Communications engineer Edbert Aquitania, as the telco giant fired up its LTE cell site in Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea on August 30.
The improved connectivity now allows residents of the island to use mobile data, make video calls, or watch videos online – an upgrade from the limited call and text service.
Pag-asa, internationally known as Thitu Island, lies 480 kilometers west of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. It is the largest of what the Philippines calls the Kalayaan Island Group, a chain of 9 islets it claims as territory among the broader group internationally known as the Spratlys.
The construction of the beaching ramp at the western tip of the island was recently completed, allowing for the delivery of large equipment and supplies.
"The activation of LTE in Pag-asa Island is proof of our continued commitment to give our customers access to our services, wherever in the Philippines they may be, regardless of the challenges," said Mario Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president and head of network planning and engineering.
Smart first turned on its 2G service in Pag-asa in 2005. But when Philippine officials and members of the media visited the island in June, Smart's cell site – the only telco facility there – was down. They received messages saying "Welcome to China" and "Welcome to Vietnam."