PLDT, Smart build ‘congestion-free’ networks by designing for peak throughput

To deliver better experience to their customers, integrated telco PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) are expanding the capacity of their transport network as part of their ongoing network modernization program.

Part of this is ensuring that the network is “congestion-free” so that customers can get the best experience while streaming video or using video conferencing apps, for example.

“Before, in addition to ensuring that we are able to reach all our customers, we also made sure that there is a good utilization of the network. That served us well in times of voice and messaging, but in the age of data, this no longer works,” said Joachim Horn, PLDT chief technology and information advisor.

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One of the reasons for this is that the old-school concept of “peak hours” is no longer true.

“There is no ‘busy hour’ anymore, in the original sense — it used to be that there’s an hour in a morning, and an hour in the evening when we had a lot of traffic, and then the rest of the time, traffic was considerably less. Today, from early in the morning until late in the evening, the level of traffic is the same. Yesterday’s ‘busy hour’ is now actually a ‘busy day’,” Horn said.

To deliver a consistent customer experience at this sustained level of data traffic, it is important to design the network in such a way that these busy hours are the norm and not the exception.

Digital transformation

“We have to design not just for the average — we have to design for peak throughput,” Horn said. “When we can cope with the peak throughput in the busiest time of the day — only then can our network be able to serve all customers on the service level we have promised.”

PLDT and Smart’s transport network transformation program is key to delivering cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, LTE and fiber-to-the-home. This multi-year digital transformation journey began in 2017, and in February this year, PLDT inaugurated a nationwide, completely SDN-based, optic, and IP network.

This initiative forms a large part of the PLDT Group’s sustained investments in its network, which totaled some Php260 billion from 2015 to 2019. With its network rollout regaining momentum following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT has leveled up its target capital expenditures for 2020 back up to Php70 billion or more.

This transformation program has enabled PLDT and Smart to cope with the increased customer demand for data, especially at the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns. With the new technology in place, PLDT and Smart have been able to remotely control, add capacity, activate services, and optimize and manage the user experience.

As of end-August, PLDT’s transport network or fiber-optic network currently spans 382,500 kilometers—the most extensive in the country. This infrastructure also supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links for base stations.