Telecommunications

PLDT, Smart expand, upgrade networks across the country amid lockdowns

As more Filipinos turn to video and other data services amid the COVID-19 crisis, PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) continue to expand and upgrade their fixed and wireless networks across the country, despite challenges presented by the imposition of community quarantine.

“In the first month after the lockdown was implemented, our network teams faced movement restrictions and we also had to take safety precautions to protect the health of our employees and our customers,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and CEO.

Resilient networks

The beneficial impact of these continuing expansion efforts has been confirmed by independent third-party firms like Opensignal, which published a recent analysis about the resilience of mobile networks in the Philippines amid the Covid-19 emergency.


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“In the Philippines, video has been a big driver of data consumption, and with measures such as the general community quarantine (GCQ) and enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in response to Covid-19, Filipinos are consuming videos on Youtube, Netflix, and other online streaming services more than ever, putting the mobile networks under pressure,” Opensignal’s Hardik Khatri said in earlier reports.

The study, which covered the period from Sept. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, showed that while 4G Video Experience in March declined by 7.2% in urban areas and 14.7% in rural areas, “the typical 4G Video Experience in the Philippines ranges from Fair to Good, which suggests that the mobile operators have been able to cope well during these extraordinary times.”

Video

To better support Filipinos’ increasing appetite for video, social media, gaming, and other online activities, PLDT and Smart continue to expand and upgrade their fixed and wireless networks across the country.

As of end-March, Smart increased the number of 4G/LTE base stations to 26,000, up 6% from end-2019, and 60% more than end-2018. PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which supports Smart’s network by providing high-capacity links to LTE base stations, is now at 338,500 kilometers nationwide, 5% more than end-2019, and up nearly 40% from end-2018.

In April, Smart further increased the capacity of its LTE network by reallocating its assigned 1800 Mhz frequency from 2G to 4G/LTE. As a result, 3,785 2G base stations of Smart have also been providing additional capacity for its LTE network.