PLDT sets aside over P150 billion for expansion until 2020

MANILA, Philippines – PLDT Incorporated is pouring in more than P150 billion from 2018 to 2020 to hasten its fixed and mobile network expansion in the Philippines.

The listed telecommunications giant said in a statement over the weekend that its capital expenditures (capex) in 2018 "will well exceed P50 billion, and is expected to stay at that level over the next two years."

This is PLDT's highest annual capex so far.

The programmed capital spending budget would also bring the PLDT group's total capex from 2016 – the year PLDT embarked on its network and information technology (IT) transformation programs – to nearly P260 billion.

This is on top of the nearly P175 billion that PLDT invested in network building from 2011 to 2015. (READ: Naming Philippines' 3rd telco might take longer than expected)

"What this means is that for every P1 of service revenue, we reinvest between 30 centavos to 35 centavos in the business to super-charge our networks and advance our digital transformation program," PLDT chairman and chief executive officer Manuel Pangilinan said in the statement.

"Aside from building vital digital infrastructure, PLDT is doing its share of nation building through the payment of taxes. In 2011-2016, PLDT and its subsidiaries paid a total of P206.9 billion in various forms of taxes," Pangilinan added.

'Aggressive rollout'

PLDT said its wireless unit Smart Communications Incorporated is using its capital spending budget "to roll out aggressively more long term evolution (LTE) and 3G base stations" to achieve its goal of providing high-speed mobile broadband to over 90% of the country's cities and municipalities by 2018. 

After extensive preparatory work in 2016, Smart said it more than doubled the number of LTE base stations in 2017 to over 8,700, from 2016.

Smart also increased the number of cell sites equipped with LTE base stations by about 60% to over 4,300.

The wireless unit of the telco giant also added more 3G base stations in 2017, raising the total to about 9,850. 

Base stations refer to the radio equipment that operate on a specific frequency band such as 700 megahertz (MHz), 1800 MHz or 2100 MHz. Cell sites refer to the towers or structures that house several of these base stations.

Over the next 12 months to 18 months, Smart said it will double the number of LTE base stations to about 17,700 and increase the number of LTE-equipped cell sites to over 6,800.

"The number of 3G base stations will rise to over 12,400, while cell sites equipped with new 3G base stations will grow to over 8,000. Most of the new 4G and 3G base stations will be using frequencies acquired from San Miguel Corporation," Pangilinan said.

For its fixed line business, PLDT said it would double its fiber and hybrid fiber broadband capacity to over 2.2 million ports. 

PLDT said about 650,000 of the additional ports will be for fiber, while another 550,000 ports will be for hybrid fiber broadband.

Its rival Globe Telecom Incorporated has set an $850-million (P42.38-billion) capital spending budget for 2018 alone, the same level as last year, mainly to fund fast internet service to two million homes by 2020. –