The Philippines’ Smart – the wireless unit of PLDT - is speeding up the deployment of its 4G network upgrade with the goal of providing coverage in 785 municipalities by the end of this year.
In May last year, PLDT partnered with rival Globe Telecom to acquire the telecom assets of San Miguel Corporation. The next month, Smart submitted a three-year plan 4G deployment plan to the National Telecommunications Commission, detailing its goal of delivering coverage to 1,551 cities and municipalities by the end of 2018 – roughly 95% of the population.
By accelerating its rollout, Smart will achieve roughly half of this goal by the end of 2017. Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart, stated that network modernisation and expansion would be a core pillar of Smart’s digital strategy.
Horn noted that Smart would refurbish cell sites to enable them to use the low-frequency 700MHz and 850MHz bands, deploying 2,165 sites that used low-spectrum band LTE. In addition, the operator will deploy 3,568 sites that use the higher-frequency 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands, boosting each site’s capacity.
He added that tests underway in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu were showing that Smart’s LTE coverage is enabling average download speeds of 20Mb/s to 23.3Mb/s in areas where the new cell sites had been deployed – before the upgrades had been fully completed.
PLDT’s capex for 2016 totalled PHP42.8 billion, and it is increasing this figure to PHP46 billion ($916 million) for 2017.