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Smart expanding LTE coverage to more municipalities

MANILA, Philippines – Smart Communications Incorporated is expanding its 4G long term evolution (LTE) coverage to include 785 municipalities by the end of 2017, in line with its promise to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to improve its network by 2018.

This marks about half of the target indicated in its 3-year network rollout plan that its parent company, PLDT Incorporated, submitted to the NTC in 2016. PLDT had said that Smart would make LTE progressively available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by the end of 2018.

For 2017, Smart targets to roll out 2,165 sites with LTE in low-spectrum bands and 3,568 sites in high-spectrum bands, said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart, in a statement on Sunday, March 26.

"We will also continue to invest in our 2G and 3G networks to meet customer demand and ensure best customer experience," Horn added. (READ: Smart targets Metro Manila for LTE coverage expansion)

PLDT said its comprehensive network modernization and expansion program features re-equipping cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 megahertz (MHz) and 850 MHz to improve LTE and 3G services, as these frequency bands travel farther than high-frequency bands and provide better coverage, including indoors.

The 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.

Big bulk of spending budget

Smart's network rollout took a big bulk of parent company PLDT's ramped-up capital expenditure program of P42.8 billion for 2016, which includes the utilization of the new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation's telco assets. (READ: PLDT still no.1 among mobile subscribers)

PLDT chairman and chief executive officer Manuel Pangilinan announced a total capital expenditure of P46 billion for 2017, inclusive of carry-overs from last year.

"We are improving customer experience through better network services and by offering progressively more relevant and targeted products and services," he said.

For Horn, the rollout of the LTE network is strategic because it lays the foundation for Smart's further improvements.

He added that investments in network upgrades have led to improved mobile internet experience in Boracay and Metro Davao.

Akamai Technologies' 4th Quarter State of the Internet Report showed that while the Philippines' mobile internet speed continued to lead the Asia-Pacific region, its average internet speed remained the worst among its neighbors.

In its report published this month, Akamai said the Philippines' average internet speed reached 4.5 megabits per second (Mbps) in October to December last year, slightly better than the 4.2 Mbps in the 3rd quarter.

This made the country the worst performer in the region during the period, Akamai said. – Rappler.com