Wider Smart 4G coverage by year-end
Louella Desiderio (The Philippine Star) - March 27, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The wireless unit of PLDT Inc. is aiming to increase 4G or Long Term Evolution (LTE) coverage to a total of 785 municipalities by the end of this year. 

This year’s target number of municipalities is half of the goal PLDT indicated in the three-year network rollout plan submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission last year. 

Under the three-year rollout plan, Smart Communications Inc. has targeted to accelerate LTE deployment and make such available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities by the end of next year. 

Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart said in a statement, the telco is set to deploy 2,165 sites with LTE in low spectrum bands and 3,568 sites in high spectrum bands this year.

“We will also continue to invest in our 2G and 3G networks to meet customer demand and ensure best customer experience,” he added.

Part of PLDT’s network modernization and expansion is the use of low-frequency bands such as the 700 Megahertz (MHz) and 850 MHz  to improve LTE and 3G services as such provide better coverage even indoors, compared to high-frequency bands.

PLDT’s rollout would also involve the use of high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz so each cell site could handle more calls, texts and mobile data traffic.

PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan has announced earlier, the group has set a total capital expenditure of P46 billion this year, inclusive of carryovers 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.

The group has started to see gains from its efforts as users in Boracay and Metro Davao where the telco completed its rollout of enhanced 4G and 3G coverage using low-band frequencies, are currently enjoying improved mobile internet service. 

Initials results in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, where network upgrades are ongoing, are also encouraging. 

In Metro Cebu, Smart produced average LTE download speeds of 20 Mbps and average 3G download rates of six Mbps.

In Rizal, the average download rates in the areas where cell sites have been upgraded are 23.3 Mbps for LTE.

Last year, Smart also started the rollout in Boracay of its LTE-Advanced service which can provide speeds much faster than what LTE can deliver through the combined capacity of two or more frequency bands.

“The rollout of our LTE network is strategic not only because it gives an immediate boost to internet speeds and reliability, but also because this lays the foundation for further improvements,” Horn said.

The LTE rollout also prepares the group for the arrival of 5G which is expected in three years. 

“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.

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