PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications has posted sustained growth in its mobile data business, with revenues up by 26 percent to P25.5 billion in 2016 from only P20.2 billion previously.
Mobile Internet revenues set the pace, rising 42 percent year-on-year to P17 billion.
The availability of more affordable smartphones in the market, attractive data offers bundled with popular digital content and services, and an upgraded mobile data network have helped Smart meet the growing demands of subscribers for data services.
“The shift to data and digital services continues to gain momentum. With access to PLDT’s extensive fixed line network, Smart is rolling out the country’s fastest mobile internet network to address the growing demand of our subscribers for data services at home, their schools and offices and while on the go,” said Eric R. Alberto, PLDT executive vice president and chief revenue officer.
Data revenues accounted for a third of the wireless business’ revenue mix last year, from only a quarter in 2015. For the first time, it has edged out voice calls and text messaging as the largest revenue source for the wireless business
Meantime, mobile data usage improved to 148,000 terabytes last year, 49 percent higher than the 2015 figure.
“The steep rise in mobile data traffic highlights the popularity of data usage as well as the huge potential to grow mobile data revenues, particularly mobile internet revenues,” Alberto said.
To support the rapidly increasing data traffic, Smart has accelerated its roll out of LTE and 3G data networks under a three-year program that includes the use of low-band frequencies such as 700 Mhz for high-speed LTE services.
This network roll-out program has been completed in Metro Davao where Smart subscribers now consistently enjoy average data download speeds of over 20 Mbps. The LTE upgrade is now underway in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, where similar dramatic improvements in data speeds are being experienced in areas where new LTE facilities have already been installed.
Even higher data speeds of 80 to 90 Mbps have been registered in selected areas where LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) facilities have been activated. LTE-A can deliver higher data rates by combining two or more frequency bands using carrier aggregation technology.
“Our LTE roll-out highlights the opportunity for people to experience significantly much better internet service by shifting to LTE smartphones, particularly those devices that use the 700 Mhz frequency,” Alberto said.
By the end of 2016, about half of Smart’s 63-million subscribers already own smartphones.
To speed up the adoption of LTE handsets, Smart has struck exclusive bundling deals with popular device makers including Oppo, O+ USA, MyPhone, and Starmobile last year and these come with free data allocation for every topup.
In its latest handset offer, Smart recently launched O+ Presto 700 LTE at P2,188 bundled with P300 load (includes 100MB of data per month for one year).
These phones can be used with affordable data packages such as Giga Surf 50, the country’s first 1GB data offer for only P50.
Smart also continues to expand its content portfolio to make it relevant to more customers. In its newest content offer, Smart along with PLDT and Cignal has partnered with global entertainment leader Fox to offer its subscribers exclusive Fox+, an app that provides access to over 11,000 hours of high-definition TV and movie content from Fox. Users can view the latest episodes of popular TV series like Homeland and The Walking Dead as soon as these are aired in the United States.
This adds to the growing library of popular video content assembled by Smart and PLDT through partnerships with iflix, Netflix, Cignal and ABS CBN’s iWantTV.