TELCOM | PLDT, Smart secure record permits in 2H 2020

PLDT and Smart secured a record number of permits in the second half of 2020, accelerated by the Anti-Red Tape Authority’s issuance of its Joint Memorandum Circular in August.

Smart cellsite stock photo

Boosting their efforts to expand their fixed and wireless networks, leading integrated telco PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) secured a record number of permits in the second half of 2020, accelerated by the Anti-Red Tape Authority’s issuance of its Joint Memorandum Circular in August.

Since July, Smart has secured over 2,500 permits to build more cell sites and accelerate the telco’s goal to improve customer experience across the country. Meanwhile, PLDT has secured around 4,000 permits.

“Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the lockdowns, we managed to ramp up our network rollout, with the help of government,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications president and chief executive and PLDT chief revenue officer. “We are really thankful for the government’s help in making it easier for us to build our network.”

Network investments

PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, is now at more than 422,000 kilometers. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s mobile networks, which cover 96% of the population and are present in 95% of cities and municipalities.

As of November, Smart has also increased the number of its base stations to over 58,000, increasing the number of base stations by 20% compared to end-2019. Smart has also rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

To date, Smart has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new cell sites fired up by the end of 2020 despite mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to COVID-19. These will help Smart increase its LTE population coverage, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas. Smart is rolling out an additional 2,000 cell sites in 2021.

PLDT is also further increasing the capacity of its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network and laying out additional ports in 2021. PLDT’s rollout of its Home broadband service is expected to reach 48% of the total cities and municipalities nationwide by end of the year, serving the data connectivity needs of Filipinos as they work and study from home in the new normal.

These initiatives form part of PLDT’s investments in capital expenditures, which have totaled Php 260 billion from 2015 to 2019. PLDT’s expansion efforts and investments helped the Group cope with sustained growth in data traffic when COVID-19 community quarantines commenced in March. PLDT is anticipating capex of at least P70 billion for 2020.

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