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Smart taps Ericsson for 5G roll out in first half of 2019

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PLDT, Inc.’s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. said its rollout of fifth generation (5G) technology is set for the first half of 2019 as it ties up with Ericsson.

In a statement released on Friday, the telco company said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ericsson, which outlines that the 5G network will kick off its deployment in Luzon.

“The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project)-compliant 5G Trial System that will be deployed in Smart includes Ericsson 5G RAN, Core and Transport solutions. The 5G pilot deployment will allow Smart to explore industry partnership engagements, collaborate with schools and universities, and further develop competence in 5G,” it said.

PLDT Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said in a press briefing on Thursday that the company had conducted a pilot test with Ericsson for the 5G network on Wednesday.

Prior to its deal with Ericsson, PLDT and Smart had signed an MoU with Huawei Technologies Ltd. last year “to identify and develop the areas of technological innovation needed to deliver 5G, which is expected to provide the foundation for the digital connected society.”

In June, the Pangilinan-led company said it had opened a 5G Technolab, a dedicated facility for research and development, standardization and testing of the technology.

Smart has so far prepared more than 2,000 of its sites for compatibility with the 5G network.

“To be able to deliver 5G services to its customers in the future, Smart is upgrading its network’s Core and Transport elements. This includes upgrading to fiber the backhaul connecting the network’s cell sites around the country and deploying 5G-ready equipment in the ongoing LTE roll-out,” PLDT and Smart Senior Vice-President for Network Planning and Engineering Mario G. Tamayo said in the statement.

Smart said it had started its efforts to bring 5G technology to the country several years ago.

In 2016, the company said it was able to achieve 5G-level speeds of 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) over a live network during a demo test with technology partner Nokia. Since it has worked with Huawei, Smart has seen its 5G network reach over 14 Gbps.

Rival Globe Telecom, Inc. announced in June that it would be bringing the 5G technology to the country by second quarter of 2019. Also partnering with Huawei, its 5G network is expected to reach speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 Mbps.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez