Smart Communications Inc. (Smart), the wireless subsidiary of PLDT, is actively exploring various technologies to expand its reach and offer new products and services.
“We have multiple initiatives and are testing several proofs of concept (POCs) as we search for the best technologies suited to serve more underserved areas,” Eric Santiago, head of Network of PLDT and Smart Network, said at the recent PLDT first-half earnings media briefing.
According to Santiago, the company is looking into technologies that would facilitate a cost-effective and faster network rollout, as well as studying how to leverage existing network assets.
“We are looking at ‘lite BTS’ (base stations) that could be quickly deployed to provide wireless services. At the same time, we are also optimizing our network assets by reallocating and utilizing our existing infrastructure and redeploying them to areas where we see new communities being built,” Santiago said.
Santiago also mentioned that Smart is currently employing technologies like Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) to enhance speeds and coverage.
“Massive MIMO enables us to increase the coverage footprint of a cell site by 30% and its capacity by 20%, just by optimizing its base stations,” he added.
Solar energy for cell sites
Smart is also exploring the expanded use of solar energy for its cell sites through solar panels paired with battery storage systems, utilizing the Solar Energy as a Service (SEaaS) model. This approach aims to enhance power supply availability, especially in areas with limited or no commercial power, strengthening Smart’s ability to serve remote communities.
These technologies are expected to reinforce the integrated fixed and wireless networks of PLDT and Smart. As of the end of June 2023, the PLDT Group has expanded its total fiber footprint to over 1.1 million kilometers, comprising more than 231,000 kilometers of international fiber and over 885,000 kilometers of domestic fiber. This extensive fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s mobile network, which provides coverage to approximately 97% of the population with 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G services.