PLDT’s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. is stepping up its network improvement program this year and increasing its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) coverage to include a total of 785 municipalities by the end of 2017, the company said over the weekend.
This is about half of the target indicated in the three-year network roll-out plan that PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications (NTC) last year. Under the plan, Smart will focus on accelerating its LTE deployment to make it 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, according to Joachim Horn, chief technology and information adviser for PLDT and Smart.
“We will also continue to invest in our 2G and 3G networks to meet customer demand and ensure best customer experience,” PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a statement.
The backbone of the PLDT group’s digital pivot features re-equipping cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 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 ever-increasing mobile data traffic.
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 included the utilization of the new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets.
Pangilinan has announced a total capital expenditure of P46 billion for this year, 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,” Pangilinan said.
Last year, Smart completed the roll-out of enhanced 4G and 3G coverage using low-band frequencies in Boracay and Metro Davao, where users are now reporting improved mobile internet experience.
Initial results are also beginning to show in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, where network upgrades are still ongoing and are expected to be finished in the following months.
“We are asking for people’s patience and understanding as we are upgrading in our network facilities. We are taking all possible steps to minimize the impact on our subscribers. Our commitment to all our subscribers is that they will enjoy progressively better mobile data services in the next few months, particularly for those using LTE devices,” said Horn.
“This is a key part of our efforts to transform the PLDT and Smart network into the country’s most future-ready data infrastructure delivering a wide range of gigabit digital solutions,” Pangilinan said.