TELECOM | Smart makes PH’s fastest mobile network even faster with 5G

PH posts most improved 5G video experience, among most improved in 5G Download Speed – Opensignal

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Smart-PLDT van parked outside the Marriott Hotel at the Clark Freeport Zone (CFZ) in Pampanga on November 5, 2018. TechSabado.com

Emerging markets such as the Philippines have posted the biggest improvements in mobile experience with 5G, according to independent mobile analytics firm Opensignal.

In its latest 5G Insight “Benchmarking the global 5G experience”, which covered the period Oct 1 to Dec 29, 2020, Opensignal found that the Philippines was among countries that posted the greatest improvements in Download Speed and Video Experience with 5G.

According to Opensignal, 5G Video Experience in the Philippines was at 77.1, 40% more than its 4G Video Experience, topping the list of the world’s most improved countries in terms of 5G Video Experience, which included Thailand, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, United Kingdom and Australia. Meanwhile, 5G Download Speed in the Philippines was at 117.2 Mbps.

To elevate its quality of service to be at par with other countries, mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), wireless arm of the Philippines’ leading integrated telco PLDT, is further ramping up its 5G deployment, as well as improving its product and service offers.

Recently, Smart fired up 5G in Malacañang Park, where a recent internal test using a Smart 5G-certified handset showed Smart 5G speeds breaching 720 Mbps.

“This is testament to our commitment in providing a superior data network and the most relevant content to make the experience of our customers better than anybody can offer,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications president & chief executive and PLDT chief revenue officer, adding that Smart’s commercial 5G rollout has opened the door to a higher level of customer experience. “This year, we said we will invest more than P90 billion for network investments, so that we can continue to improve customer experience. With this, we are making the Philippines’ fastest mobile network–as recently awarded by another third-party analytics firm Ookla–even faster with 5G.”

“Over the years, we have invested in providing our customers with the best LTE experience, which is the most pervasive in the Philippines right now in terms of both network and device.” Mario G. Tamayo, head of Technology for PLDT and Smart, said these network investments over the past years have allowed PLDT-Smart to level up customer experience using the latest technologies available. “Moving forward, our 5G rollout will build on this LTE network to provide an even better experience to our customers.”

These latest developments are part of Smart’s strategy in deploying 5G across the country. Smart, which launched its 5G service commercially in July, was the first to roll out Smart 5G nationwide.

In December, Smart unveiled its new Signature 5G Plans, which are specially designed with generous data allocations to unlock the capabilities of Smart 5G’s superfast speeds, ultra-low latency, and higher efficiency.

Smart also recently upgraded its Smart Signature SIM-Only Plans by exclusively bundling them with a Netflix Mobile Plan subscription to provide better experience to customers and more relevant content.

5G milestones

Smart is at the forefront of the 5G revolution in the Philippines with the continued nationwide roll-out of its ultrafast 5G network, which includes strategic sites in Metro Manila, Boracay, Cavite, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Laguna, New Clark City in Pampanga, and Rizal.

Recently, Smart with its technology partners Ericsson, Huawei and a leading 5G smartphone vendor, also successfully tested 5G Carrier Aggregation (CA), making it one of the first mobile operators in Asia Pacific to test CA in the live 5G network. CA combines two or more separate bands of radio frequencies to create a bigger pipe for even faster data rates, increasing the capacity thus improving the overall 5G user experience.

5G has been embedded in Smart’s network planning over the past five years, with Smart conducting tests with 5G starting in 2016.

In 2018, it fired up the country’s first 5G base stations in Makati with Huawei and the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga with Ericsson. In 2019, Smart also launched the first Smart 5G Lifestyle hub and 5G-enabled shopping mall in Araneta City, as well as the first Smart 5G campus at the Ateneo de Manila University with Nokia. These multi-vendor collaborations bring global use cases for Enterprise customers to innovate and fast-track their digital transformation journey.

It also recently fired up 5G at the Gariath Concepts esports venue in Quezon City, the first 5G-powered esports hub in the country, and at the TV5 Media Center in Mandaluyong City, the first 5G Media City. It also recently brought the country’s first 5G-powered sports broadcast at the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in Clark Freeport in Pampanga.

Steady investment effort

These initiatives form a large part of the PLDT Group’s sustained investments in their network, which totaled some Php260 billion from 2015 to 2019. With the surge in demand for data, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between Php 88 billion and Php 92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021 to meet the requirements of mobile and fixed line customers.

PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which is the most extensive in the country, is at more than 429,000 kilometers as of December.

This fiber network supports Smart’s 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G networks, which cover 96% of the population and are present in 95% of cities and municipalities. As of December, Smart has also increased the number of its base stations to over 59,000. Smart has also rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

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