PLDT subsidiary and wireless leader Smart Communications (Smart) has expanded the capacity of thousands of its mobile phone cell sites in 73 provinces using the new radio frequencies that it gained access to.
As of end-June, Smart has beefed up the capacity of 2,035 cell sites in 581 cities and municipalities in different parts of the country using the 1800 MHz frequency spectrum formerly assigned to the telecoms businesses of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).
Smart is initially using the 1800 MHz to enhance the ability of its GSM or 2G network to handle more calls and text messages, particularly in dense urban areas in Metro Manila, North Luzon, South Luzon, in the Visayas, and Mindanao. This enables the telco to improve the mobile phone experience of the roughly 70 million Smart, TNT, and Sun subscribers nationwide.
Smart has fired up added facilities using the 1800 MHz frequency in 264 cell sites in Metro Manila, 743 in North Luzon, 629 in South Luzon, 118 in the Visayas, and 281 in Mindanao.
The 2G network expansion complements Smart’s growing use of the 700, 2300, and 2600 MHz frequencies also previously assigned to SMC, to strengthen Smart’s mobile data service throughout the country, particularly via LTE (Long-Term Evolution).
LTE is the fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone technology that currently provides the fastest wireless data service commercially available.
Smart recently announced it has fired up eight LTE cell sites using the 700 MHz spectrum. Five of these cell sites are in Davao City, with one each in Tanay, Rizal; Bacoor, Cavite; and Manggahan area in Pasig City.
Smart plans to activate 360 cell sites with 700 MHz this year, initially in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.
Smart’s rapid network rollout using the additional frequencies is being undertaken to comply with the directive issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last May 27, 2016. The NTC ordered PLDT to immediately use the frequencies formerly assigned to the SMC telecoms businesses in order to improve its services within a year. It also required PLDT to prepare a three-year plan to cover the entire country.
Smart’s drive to boost data coverage and capacity across the country forms a major part of the PLDT’s capital expenditure program. PLDT has set aside about P43 billion in total capex for 2016. It has allocated an additional US$100 million to utilize the additional frequencies from the co-acquisition of SMC’s telecoms business.