TO expand the coverage and capacity of its network, particularly mobile data, Pangilinan-led Smart Communications ramped up network deployment using new frequencies formerly assigned to San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
Joachim Horn, PLDT and Smart chief technology and information advisor, said they are gearing up for the full utilization of the 700, 900, 1800, 2300, and 2600 MHz spectrums to accelerate its LTE (Long-Term Evolution) deployment.
“Just as we committed, we are using our access to these frequencies to more quickly deliver faster, more reliable and affordable Internet services throughout the country,” said Horn.
Smart plans to activate 360 cell sites in the 700 MHz spectrum this year, initially in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.
The telco has recently fired up cell towers in Laguna utilizing the 2600 MHz spectrum and in Boracay within the 2300 MHz spectrum.
Smart has fired up its first batch of LTE cell sites using the 700 MHz spectrum in Tanay, Rizal; Matina, Davao City; and Manggahan in Pasig City, saying peak download speeds of up to 101 Mbps, on a single-band, 700-MHz LTE set-up were recorded.
In Tanay, Smart combined the 700 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands using the carrier aggregation capability of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), resulting in peak speeds of up to 222 mbps.
Peak speeds are the maximum possible data transfer rates that may be achieved by a single-user. The actual speeds under normal circumstances may be influenced by the number of users tapped to a particular base station.
LTE is the fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone technology that currently provides the fastest wireless data service commercially available.
“Using these frequencies to deploy LTE, currently the most advanced and most pervasive technology, will help expand the coverage and enhance the capacity of our data network not only in the urban centers but also in regional and rural areas, and at a much faster pace,” said Horn.
The 700 MHz spectrum has a longer range and provides better indoor coverage, while Smart’s additional bandwidth in the 2300 and 2600 MHz frequencies will provide the required capacity to handle current and future high-speed data traffic.
Smart is also rapidly expanding the capacity of its 2G network to handle more calls and text messages, particularly in dense areas in Metro Manila, North Luzon, South Luzon, and some areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, using the 900 and 1800 MHz frequencies previously assigned to SMC.
“Having access to these frequencies is just one part of our massive network program. We will have to expand the capacity of our transmission links and international circuits, in order to handle the expected rise in data traffic,” the executive said.
“We will need to work with device manufacturers so we can help customers upgrade to more sophisticated but increasingly more affordable handsets and devices that can take advantage of the new powerful network that is being put in place,” he added.
Smart is currently in the middle of a three-year, multi-billion dollar network improvement program that includes a number of simultaneous initiatives.
One activity aims to synergize the mobile phone networks of Smart and Sun in order to improve the coverage and service quality for subscribers of both brands. Another initiative is the rollout of LTE-A, also referred to as 4.5G.
Last April, Smart fired up the country’s first 4.5G service in the resort island of Boracay.
PLDT has set aside P43 billion of capital expenditure for 2016. It has allocated an additional $100 million to utilize the additional frequencies from the co-acquisition of SMC’s telecoms business.