After several years of persistent efforts, PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) attained a key goal in late 2019: not only was its LTE mobile data service the fastest in the country, it was also the most widely available.
The process of achieving that objective has been instrumental in significantly improving the data experience of Smart, TNT and Sun customers and lifting the data traffic and revenues of Smart. As a result, the mobile phone company has firmly gotten back on the path of growth.
As of the third quarter of 2019, mobile service revenues grew by 20% year-on-year to Php52.6 billion. The share of data and broadband to total service revenues reached 66%, up from 60% in the same period last year.
Overcoming the coverage deficit
The latest assessment of Smart’s LTE service came from the report of international mobile analytics firm Opensignal covering the period Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, 2019. That report said Smart customers were getting superior 4G Availability in both rural and urban areas. It also said that Smart has continued to deliver much faster LTE download speeds in both rural and urban areas as well.
In previous Opensignal reports in the past two years, Smart had consistently delivered a better download experience but had trailed behind the competition in terms of availability. That deficit had been progressively diminishing as Smart stepped up its LTE and 3G roll out. The latest report shows these efforts have paid off and that Smart has overtaken Globe in terms of availability.
Capitalizing on its growing network advantage, Smart stepped up its product offers that focused on online video viewing, e-games and social media through prepaid load packages like GIGA Video, GIGA Games and GIGA Stories
In 2019, it launched its YouTube Every Day, Video Every Day and Free YouTube For All promos to promote video viewing among its subscribers. Under these offers, customers were given 1 hour of free video viewing every day via various apps like YouTube, iFlix, iWant, NBA and Cignal Play.
Smart also poured efforts to meet the rising demand for mobile games among Filipinos, including support for the Philippine National eSports team Sibol, which won Gold medals during the recently concluded Southeast Asian Games.
As for social media, Smart recently launched its Free IG+FB For All promo, which offers Smart and TNT prepaid subscribers with free 1 GB access to Instagram and Facebook when they register for selected promos.
Creating online content
Complementing its efforts to promote online video viewing, Smart also conducted programs to encourage its customers to create online content. It staged the Smart Play: Vlogger Camp in universities across the country to help students develop skills in creating video content.
The first-of-its-kind convention was held in Ateneo de Davao University, Silliman University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran Calamba, and Mapua University. Student participants learned more about the basics of vlogging and creating video content from the country’s best vloggers.
With Filipinos being avid supporters of music acts both online and offline, Smart has also continued to mount concerts featuring major international acts like U2 and Maroon 5.
Data usage doubles
By addressing the rising demand for video viewing and e-games, the data traffic of Smart’s network has soared. By the third quarter of 2019, the mobile internet traffic of Smart, TNT and Sun customers reached 1.1 exabytes (1106 PB), twice as large as the volume recorded in the same period last year. Internet traffic in the third quarter alone grew 20% versus the previous quarter.
Despite this, Smart has managed to maintain the quality of its data service while expanding its availability. This level of performance has been consistently cited by independent third party surveys.
Opensignal’s Philippines Mobile Network Experience Report released in September found that Smart provides the country’s Best Video Experience, Download Speed Experience, Upload Speed Experience and Latency Experience.
Meanwhile, Ookla, the global leader in internet testing and analysis, also found that PLDT and Smart delivered the country’s fastest fixed and mobile data speeds for the first half of 2019, as they continued to widen their respective leads over their competitors.
Smart has achieved this performance by sustaining its network roll out efforts. As of the third quarter 2019, it has increased the number of LTE base stations by 34% compared to end-2018 and deploying these in more areas of the country. Smart’s goal is to equip all of its cell sites with LTE, which offers the best mobile data service.
Underpinning Smart’s network deployment is the continued expansion of PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which grew by 26% versus end-2018 to more than 307,000 kilometers nationwide. This unmatched fiber infrastructure is a critical advantage for Smart.
The sustained improvement of the PLDT-Smart network has been supported by a stepped-up capital expenditures program that includes investments in network and IT systems, including investments in increased LTE coverage and capacity, expanded fiber transport and new international cable networks.