Smart on track to complete LTE rollout by end-2017

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SMART Communications, Inc. said it is on track to complete the upgrade of more than 4,200 3G and long-term evolution (LTE) sites across the country by the end of the year.

“Our commitment to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is to meet 90% municipality coverage next year for 3G and 4G mobile broadband, and we are well on-track to meet this,” Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart said in a statement.

Mr. Horn said the coverage upgrade is already at 89%, “so we will definitely meet that target early next year.”

Last year, Smart’s parent PLDT, Inc. submitted to the NTC a three-year network rollout plan, promising to make LTE available to 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities by the end of 2018.

“This year, we more than doubled the number of sites which are capable of LTE,” Mr. Horn said, noting 90% of Metro Manila’s sites already have LTE.

Smart said improvements in Internet speed are seen in Metro Manila.

“Recent internal tests in Parañaque, for example, recorded median LTE download speeds of 17.9 megabits per second (Mbps) and median upload speeds of 12 Mbps, while median download and upload speeds of 27.6 Mbps and 16.1 Mbps, respectively, were posted in Caloocan. In Taguig, Smart LTE recorded median download speeds of 18.6 Mbps, while median upload speeds were at 13.7 Mbps,” Smart said.

The upgrades are part of the comprehensive network modernization and expansion program at the heart of the PLDT group’s digital pivot.

Smart has completed its LTE deployment in Metro Davao and Metro Cebu, in the island of Boracay, and in the province of Rizal, with deployment underway in Metro Manila and in key cities in other parts of the country.

It began deployment of LTE sites using the 700 megahertz (MHz) band last year, after PLDT and Globe teamed up to buy the telecommunications assets of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) for P69.1 billion.

Smart has also started deploying four-component carrier (4CC) aggregation technology in its Metro Manila network, which it says can provide “very high” LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) mobile data speeds.

Carrier aggregation is the combination of multiple frequency channels to provide a much wider highway for the flow of mobile data.

“We already tried this in Boracay, and we have just completed the upgrade of Marikina, where we have upgraded all base stations with 4-carrier aggregation. The benefit for the customer is much higher capacity, and much higher speeds. So if you go to Marikina, you will easily be able to achieve more than 100 Mbps on your phone,” Mr. Horn said.

Mr. Horn said Quezon City will be the next target area followed by other parts of Metro Manila.

Earlier this year, Smart activated 4CC in Boracay, and said the technology reached average speeds of 280 Mbps.

Smart said that after the initial deployment of 4CC technology in Metro Manila, its internal tests showed consistent delivery of speeds going above 300 Mbps in a single-user scenario, and above 200 Mbps in a multi-user, daytime setup.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo