PLDT, INC.’s wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. announced on Wednesday that its fifth-generation (5G) service will be commercially available to its subscribers in key commercial districts of Metro Manila starting July 30.

Smart will also be launching its initial lineup of 5G-certified handsets from Huawei, Samsung, RealMe and Vivo.

In a statement, the company said the devices will be available with Smart Signature plans in select Smart Stores.

“Starting July 30th, the 5G mobile phone network of Smart Communications is going live as a commercial service. In this initial phase of its commercial deployment, Smart Signature, Infinity and other Smart postpaid subscribers will be able to enjoy the super-fast data service of Smart 5G in key business districts of Metro Manila using Smart-certified handsets with 5G-activated SIMs,” the wireless services provider said.

Smart’s 5G service will be available in Araneta City, SM Megamall, Mall of Asia Bay Area, and the central business districts (CBDs) of Makati and Bonifacio Global City.

“Smart 5G is also being rolled out in key high-traffic areas such as North Avenue in Quezon City and Taft Avenue in Manila, as well as in Ortigas CBD, and Clark Green City in Pampanga,” the company said.

The announcement was made two days after President Rodrigo R. Duterte threatened to shut down Smart and Globe Telecom, Inc. if they fail to improve their services by December.

In June, PLDT Spokesperson Ramon R. Isberto said the 5G service will be launched by the fourth quarter of the year.

“As we roll out 5G in more areas of the country, this will complement the deployment of our 4G/LTE network, which is already the fastest and most extensive in the country. To date, Smart 4G/LTE and 3G coverage serves 95% of the country’s population,” Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and chief executive officer, was quoted as saying in the statement.

Smart said its 5G deployment plan requires steady investment efforts.

It noted that PLDT and Smart had spent some P260 billion in total capital expenditures (capex) over the last five years.

“In 2019 alone, the PLDT Group’s capex reached a record P72.9 billion. Moreover, the 2020 capex is expected to reach P70 billion despite the slowdown in network rollout due to the quarantine controls imposed in the second quarter of this year,” Smart said.

The capex program has made it possible for both PLDT and Smart to build the infrastructure for the deployment of 4G/LTE and 5G services.

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. — Arjay L. Balinbin