By Cathy Rose A. Garcia, Associate Editor

BANGKOK — The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) is supporting PLDT, Inc.’s preparations for the rollout of its fifth generation (5G) network by providing the telecommunications giant with a $1-million (around P50.5 million) training grant.

The USTDA Acting Deputy Director Todd Abrajano and PLDT Vice President and Head of Core Planning Arvin L. Siena signed the letter of intent at the sidelines of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum here on Monday.

The foreign assistance agency of the US government agreed to provide a $1 million training grant “to support training and capacity building for PLDT’s technical and managerial staff to support the company’s deployment of next-generation digital technologies.”

The training grant comes as PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications are in the midst of efforts to deploy a 5G network in the country.

In April, PLDT signed a deal with US technology provider Cisco Systems, Inc. for the digital transformation of its IP transport infrastructure, which will support the 5G network.

“This (training grant) will enable PLDT to utilize cutting-edge technologies that Cisco will deploy that would transform the company’s network into 5G network-ready infrastructure. We are pleased to support PLDT with this $1-million grant agreement, and look forward to working with them to ensure its success,” Mr. Abrajano said during the signing event.

PLDT is targeting to launch the rollout of its 5G network by 2020.

“A vital part of that undertaking is the task of transforming our fiber optic transport network into a 5G ready infrastructure. We have tapped Cisco to provide that leading edge technology to execute that transformation. But it is not just the network we need to transform, we also need to transform our people and our organization with new competency and skills,” Mr. Siena said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, who witnessed the signing of the USTDA-PLDT deal, said “this is more than just benefiting PLDT but also has implications for the country in as much as connectivity is a key part of the economic growth and development.”

The telecommunications giant has yet to decide on vendors for the network hardware, telecommunications equipment and other products and services for its 5G network. PLDT Chairman and President Manuel V. Pangilinan said in July it was choosing among Cisco, China’s Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. and ZTE Corp.; Sweden’s Ericsson, Inc.; and Finland’s Nokia Corp.

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.