For leading integrated telco PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), network transformation is more than just adopting new technologies and innovations.
“The most important transformation we did was not technology–it was a change of mindset,” said Joachim Horn, next-generation solutions advisor at Smart, at a recent Asia Pacific Telecom Summit 2022 panel. We moved our teams from a network and technology focus to a service focus by looking at what our customers are actually doing on our network, like watching videos on YouTube and on TikTok, for example.”
“The ambition is to really be the best network in the Philippines,” Horn said, adding that the company also benchmarks itself regularly to ensure performance.. “New tech must always yield better customer experience. Otherwise, it’s useless.”
PLDT and Smart’s network transformation, which began five years ago, involved the re-architecture of their transport network and the virtualization of their core network, among others. “At the beginning, our target was to achieve nationwide LTE coverage and to be able to launch 5G in the Philippines by 2020. Today, it’s 2022, and we have 96.5% LTE population coverage and about 50% 5G coverage,” Horn said.
Horn also emphasized the importance of preparing the workforce alongside the technology. “We have always started our big projects as ‘transformation programs’ instead of ‘technology replacement programs’. This means that from Day 1, we look not only at the technology change and its business impact, but also at processes and skills development, and the overall impact on the organization,” he said.
According to Horn, the only way to maintain PLDT and Smart’s competitive edge is to always make room for change.
“Our overarching target is for our network to help maintain the best customer experience in the Philippines. But in order to do that, we have to accept that transformation is perpetual. It does not end. It is a permanent part of our business,” he said.
PLDT and Smart’s services are underpinned by the Group’s integrated network infrastructure. To support the constant growth of mobile data traffic, Smart increased to 76,600 its total base stations nationwide as of end-March 2022, providing 3G, 4G/LTE and 5G to customers across the country, including around 7,300 5G base stations, all supported by fiber infrastructure of 803,000 kilometers.