As mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) ramps up the rollout of its 5G network across the country, it is also partnering with device manufacturers to make 5G devices more accessible to its customers.
The wireless arm of the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT has teamed up with device manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, OPPO, vivo, and realme to put more Smart-certified 5G devices within easy reach of their subscribers.
With Smart 5G’s superfast speeds and lower latency, customers can enjoy an enhanced experience in terms of watching high-definition video, playing esports, and using new digital services.
“In addition to being in an area with 5G coverage, unlocking the full potential of the 5G network that we are putting in place across the country also entails using the appropriate device,” explains Mario G. Tamayo, head of Technology at PLDT and Smart. “As the network evolves, so do the devices that can maximize it.”
“As we make the country’s fastest mobile network even faster with 5G, we are also making it simple for our customers to enjoy and maximize its benefits. We are doing this by also making available a wide range of Smart 5G-certified handset options and helping our subscribers upgrade to 5G,” said Jane J. Basas, senior vice president and head of Consumer Wireless Business at Smart. “Indeed, 5G devices are becoming more attainable for Filipinos. Last year, only a handful of phones were available on the market, and those retailed for around P50,000. Today, over two dozen devices are now out there, with a few models retailing at about P15,000. In less than a year, we may even see sub-P10k devices.”
With more people on 5G, average internet speeds in the country will also improve, Basas said. “Getting more people on 5G and 5G devices will also drive-up average internet speeds, and more Filipinos can improve their lives with fiber-like access on mobile,” Basas added.
In the latest Ookla Speedtest Awards, Smart has been named anew as the country’s fastest mobile network, while PLDT has once again been cited as the Philippines’ fastest fixed network. The awards are based on analysis by Ookla of millions of tests taken with Speedtest covering the second half of 2020.
Meanwhile, third party analytics firm Opensignal also found that the Philippines was among countries that posted the greatest improvements in Video Experience with 5G, topping the list of the world’s most improved countries, which included Thailand, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, United Kingdom and Australia.
Commercial 5G rollout
Smart launched its commercial 5G service in July last year and was the first in the country to roll out its 5G service nationwide.
In December, Smart unveiled the new Signature 5G Plans. Recently, it also launched its latest 5G campaign headlined by South Korean superstars Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin.
With these developments, Smart remains at the forefront of the 5G revolution in the Philippines with the continued nationwide roll-out of its ultrafast 5G network, which also includes strategic sites in Metro Manila, Cebu, Boracay, Iloilo, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Davao.
On top of beefing up its nationwide 5G network, Smart has also constantly added to its list of certified devices. Among the Smart 5G-certified devices available with Smart Signature 5G plans include the recently launched Samsung Galaxy S21 series, Huawei Mate40 Pro and P40 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy A42 5G, OPPO Reno 4z 5G, vivo V20 Pro 5G and realme X50 Pro 5G.
Smart has been conducting tests with 5G starting in 2016.
Last year, 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 speed thus improving the overall 5G user experience.
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.
Smart 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.
These initiatives on 5G form a large part of PLDT’s sustained network investments, which totaled some Php286.3 billion from 2016 to 2020. To meet the requirements of their mobile and fixed line subscribers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between Php 88 billion and Php 92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.
Supporting Smart’s 5G network is PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which is the most extensive in the country at more than 429,000 kilometers as of December 2020.
Smart’s networks currently 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.