THE PLDT group announced on Monday that it is looking to further ramp up its network rollout in the southern regions of the Philippines.

The group intends to add around 6,000 fiber ports in Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, Davao Oriental, and Davao City, as well as Smart wireless sites before the end of the year, PLDT said in an e-mailed statement.

PLDT’s fiber network has reached 17,000 villages as of end-September.

“This accounts for roughly 40% of all barangays (villages) in the Philippines,” the telecommunications company said.

According to PLDT, its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. recently beefed up its network in Northern Mindanao.

There were “additional sites and base stations in the cities of Cagayan de Oro  and Iligan, and additional LTE (long-term evolution) base stations in the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, and Lanao del Norte,” it noted.

The group aims to upgrade its services across the country amid digitalization efforts from both the private sector and the government.

The Philippines ranked 55th out of 117 countries in the Digital Quality of Life Index 2022 by virtual private network service provider Surfshark from 48th last year. In Asia, the Philippines placed 14th out of 34 countries.

It performed the worst in internet affordability, ranking 98th globally, down 26 places from 72nd a year prior.

“Internet in the Philippines is not affordable compared to global standards,” Surfshark said.

The country placed 60th in terms of time needed to work to afford the cheapest mobile internet, up 44 places from 104th the prior year.

The report said that a 1-gigabyte (GB) mobile internet package costs 4 minutes and 51 seconds of work per month in the Philippines, 59 times more than the 5 seconds of work needed to buy a 1-GB package in Israel, which has the most affordable mobile Internet in the world, based on the index.

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