Mobile services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the wireless arm of the Philippines’ largest integrated telco PLDT, has launched its 5G roaming service in South Korea in partnership with KT Corp., Korea’s largest telecommunications company.
Smart prepaid and postpaid subscribers who are roaming in South Korea can enjoy 5G data roaming speeds using their Smart SIM and 5G device. Smart roamers can maximize the service by subscribing to GigaRoam plans while overseas. All they need to do is to go to roam.smart.com.ph while they are abroad. GigaRoam plans start for as low as P999 for a 5-day data roaming plan.
Smart’s recently launched GigaRoam packs provide more data allocation with extended validity and are designed to give roamers seamless connectivity while abroad. This year, as the world prepares to ease travel restrictions amid the worldwide vaccine rollout, Smart plans to launch more 5G roaming partnerships to provide world-class roaming services to its travelers.
“5G, the latest evolution of wireless communications, brings our customers closer to an even higher level of customer experience in terms of enjoying high-definition video, playing esports and using new digital services,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart Communications president & chief executive and PLDT chief revenue officer. “With international partnerships such as this, we continue our journey toward bringing world-class service to the Filipino people.”
“We are happy to partner with KT in providing 5G connectivity for Smart subscribers who are traveling in South Korea,” said Alice Ramos, vice president for International Roaming and Consumer Business at Smart. “South Korea remains to be a top roaming destination for Filipino business and leisure travelers and 5G roaming speeds mean faster upload of travel blogs and videos, faster download speeds for K-Drama videos popular with the Filipino market, and seamless data connectivity for work-productivity apps.”
KT Corp. is leading the new era of innovations in one of the world’s most connected countries with 5G, Big Data, Cloud, IoT, Blockchain and other transformative technologies. KT launched the world’s first nationwide commercial 5G network in April 2019, after showcasing the first trial 5G services at the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in February 2018.
KT and Smart are members of the CONEXUS Mobile Alliance, which is composed of 9 member-telcos in Asia who are at the forefront of delivering innovative, customer-friendly services for customers of member operators who frequently travel on business. CONEXUS is currently chaired by Katrina Luna-Abelarde, President and CEO at PLDT Global and head of International and Carrier Business. Despite roaming being the worst-hit telecom division by COVID-19, Smart and CONEXUS have continued to lay down roaming service improvements for international travelers.
5G in the Philippines
In the Philippines, Smart remains at the forefront of the 5G revolution. Smart launched its commercial 5G service in July last year and was the first in the country to roll out its 5G service nationwide. Its recently unveiled 5G campaign is headlined by South Korean superstars Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin.
Smart has also continued the 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 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. (For the full list of devices, visit 5g.smart)
5G is expected to make the Philippines’ fastest mobile network even faster.
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.
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 P286.3 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.