PLDT, its wireless unit Smart Communications (Smart), and strategy and technology partner Huawei Technologies Philippines have agreed to jointly conduct research and development on 5G, or fifth-generation wireless broadband technology.
In a recent visit to the Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China, PLDT and Smart Chairman, President, and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Huawei led by Jacky Gao Kexin, CEO of Huawei Philippines.
Under the MOU, PLDT and Smart will work with Huawei to identify and develop the areas of technological innovation needed to deliver 5G. Plans include setting up a 5G innovation lab, and the creation of a showcase network.
Smart is in the middle of a multi-year nationwide network expansion program to improve both coverage and quality of service, particularly its 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) service. A major leg of this network expansion was recently completed in Metro Davao, where Smart users are already reporting much improved mobile data experience.
The rollout is currently underway in Metro Manila and in Metro Cebu, and is expected to significantly boost Smart’s voice, SMS, and mobile data services, specially its indoor LTE coverage, in these urban centers.
An upgrade of PLDT’s fixed access networks, part of the company’s transformation toward 5G-readiness, is also underway.
Initial tests done by Smart have found that the ongoing network rollout in and around Metro Manila has begun to pay off, with tests in Rizal province showing LTE download speeds of up to 18 Mbps, while tests in selected indoor and outdoor areas in Cebu have also generated download speeds in excess of 20 Mbps.
These are already marked improvements from recently released findings of J.P. Morgan Securities’ Asia Network Quality Report for the last quarter of 2016, which found that among Philippine carriers, Smart posted the highest overall LTE download speeds at 9.17 Mbps.
The report, which cited crowd-sourced data gathered by wireless coverage research firm Open Signal, also found Smart leading in NCR for 3G, with download speeds of 2.85 Mbps.
“LTE facilities, with strengthened transport links, can be quickly upgraded to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), and will be an integral part of our future 5G network,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart.
“This collaboration with Huawei is an important part of PLDT and Smart’s efforts to bring the most advanced technologies to the Philippines,” said Atty. Ray Espinosa, Chief Corporate Services Officer at PLDT and Smart.
According to Shawn Longyuxiang, director of Huawei Philippines’ PLDT group account, “We are glad to partner with PLDT and Smart to help develop innovations needed to deliver 5G.”
Just as it did with 4G LTE, Smart is looking to extend the benefits of 5G to as many Filipinos as possible, as soon as it is available.
“We are focused on ensuring that our current investments in network facilities will enable us to be ready with the necessary infrastructure foundation for 5G when it arrives sometime in 2020,” added Horn.