For a tourist-popular place like Puerto Princesa in Palawan, better mobile internet is a boon not only to travelers, but for local businesses as well.
“Mobile data is a need for our (travel) agency to keep up with the strong online community of travelers,” said Jocelyn Libato, staff at Pretty Planet Travel and Tours in Puerto Princesa. “We post updates, promos and tour packages on our Facebook page to attract customers here and abroad.”
Locally owned gaming shops like Lucky Panda Game Zone have also felt the boost. “It really helps me promote the business especially now that communication with customers mostly takes place online, be it via email, Facebook, or Messenger,” said Lucky Panda Game Zone supervisor Rochelle Baylon.
From P2,000 a week last year, store owner Evelyn Juntado now sells more than twice as much cell phone load. She is one of many Smart load retailers in Puerto Princesa enjoying a boost in earnings since Smart Communications upgraded its network, boosting connectivity and consequently driving data traffic.
“I have been re-loading from Smart agents more frequently since the LTE rollout,” she says, and P5,000 worth is easily sold out.
Marilyn Bundac, a veteran Smart retailer in Puerto Princesa, has likewise tripled her earnings because of better signal. “From P500 a day, I now average P1,000 to P1,500. My customers from the Land Transportation Office here say that they can use Smart’s faster LTE to watch videos on YouTube or play mobile games,” she said, adding that she herself is an avid Facebook user.
Smart is rolling out more Long Term Evolution (LTE) sites across Palawan, the country’s largest province in terms of land area, starting in Puerto Princesa. Initial internal tests in areas like the Puerto Princesa International Airport and Honda Bay wharf showed LTE download speeds between 12 and 60 Mbps, depending on the device.
Evelyn’s Jairus Store is located at Honda Bay wharf. Being also an online seller on Facebook, the mother of two herself uses mobile data — GigaSurf50 for fast and stable online experience—the same promo she often recommends to her regular customers, mostly tricycle drivers and housewives.
Higher month-on-month growth
With increased data traffic Puerto Princesa, Smart in Palawan has also posted month-on-month growth in sales over the last six months.
Ryan Abadilla, provincial customer development manager for Palawan sees more opportunities for the province. “With improved connectivity, tourists can upload photos, update their social media, and keep in touch with their families via messaging apps faster.” And with more tourists coming in, “local businesses will also flourish.”
Aside from the city proper, tourist areas like Coron, El Nido, Roxas, San Vicente and Taytay have also been growing, thanks to Smart LTE already in place,” he adds.
Like Evelyn, load retailer Riza Cinco also reports a spike in business since the network upgrade.
“My customers now prefer higher load denominations ranging from P50 to 100 like GigaSurf50 and AllOutSurf 99 so they can enjoy mobile data for a longer period of time,” she says. “They also still buy call-and-text promos like the Super Combo 20 and UnliCall&Text30.”
Increasing LTE traffic
For student Aziel Almasco, who buys AllOutSurf99, mobile data is helpful for both work and play. “With the improved network in our area, I also get to enjoy the Free YouTube Everyday promo now that I am on vacation,” she says.
Until July 15, Smart, Sun, and TNT prepaid customers can enjoy up to one hour of free access to YouTube every day as long as they are registered to select promos including GigaSurf99, AllOutSurf99, GigaSurf 50, AllOutSurf 30, Panalo Data 30, Panalo Combo 30, Super Combo 20, and Big Time Data 70. This offer is also available to Smart and Sun postpaid customers, while Sun Fixed Load Plans users simply have to register to select load buckets to enjoy the offer.
Puerto Princesa is just one of many high-traffic areas where Smart has already deployed LTE. Recently, Smart also fired up LTE in the Philippines’ most picturesque tourist havens, including Batanes, Sagada, and Sarangani, as well as in the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte, to name a few.
Investing in network transformation
In 2018, Smart is doubling the number of LTE base stations to about 17,700 nationwide and raising the number of LTE-equipped cell sites to more than 6,800, using frequencies that are compatible with CA-capable smartphones available in the market today. It is on track toward to fulfill its commitment to the National Telecommunications Commission to cover 90% of the country’s cities and municipalities with mobile data service by the end of this year.
Parent company PLDT has committed historic levels of resources to support network transformation, with capital expenditures expected to reach P58 billion this year. Alongside Smart’s ramped-up LTE roll out, PLDT is also aggressively rolling out its fiber broadband service, which also supports the stepped-up deployment of the mobile network by providing high-capacity links for cellular base stations.