IN line with their push to “power sports with technology,” the country’s largest integrated telco PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. are rallying behind the country’s hosting of the third and final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in February and batting for its success.

PLDT and Smart are one with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in having the Philippines showcase what it can do in hosting international tournaments, while at the same time using the opportunity to further shore up their technology and infrastructure geared for, among other things, the world of sports.

“This is a major milestone for Philippine sports, and it’s one that we have been working toward for quite some time. We are ready to provide our region’s top players a place to play basketball at the highest level, and we’re also getting a chance to show the world our heart for the game,” said PLDT Chairman and SBP Chairman Emeritus Manuel V. Pangilinan in a statement.

Adding, “This is a great opportunity to rally the entire nation to support our athletes and their dreams of succeeding at the world stage, para sa bayan (for the country).” 

On Friday, world basketball governing body International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced that Clark in Pampanga will be among the sites for the last Asia Cup Qualifiers window along with Tokyo, Japan; Manama, Bahrain; and Doha, Qatar.

Clark will be the venue for matches in Groups A and C, slated for Feb. 18 to 22.

Group A has the Philippines (3-0), Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4) while Group C is composed of New Zealand (2-0) Australia (1-1), Guam (0-1), and Hong Kong (0-1).

The decision to have Clark as one of the hosts came after the SBP offered the venue, touting how the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) successfully staged its “bubble” tournament there under strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus from October up to last week.

PLDT and Smart were valuable partners for the PBA during the bubble as they powered the tournament with 5G technology that allowed for the games to reach many viewers across various platforms.

Smart pioneered the use of wireless 360 cameras powered by 5G to help capture the on-court action efficiently. A 94-foot-wide LED screen was placed beside the court so that the players could also see their spectators.

The coverage of the PBA Philippine Cup finals also resulted in record viewership for the PBA on both TV and digital platforms.

Up to millions of viewers tuned in during the best-of-seven finals series between eventual champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and TNT Tropang Giga, which was livestreamed on the Facebook pages and local channels of TV5, Cignal, and PBA.

FIBA, too, streamed the games globally.

It is the same platform and reach that PLDT and Smart want to provide for the country’s hosting of the FIBA window.

And to ensure they deliver from their end, they are further ramping up their 5G, LTE, and fiber rollout.

Smart is upgrading its base stations in key areas across the country to 5G to augment data capacity, alongside deploying additional LTE base stations nationwide.

“Through our 5G-powered equipment and fast connectivity, basketball fans were able to enjoy the live court action in the safety of their homes. The future in world-class basketball experience is truly within our reach…” said Smart President and CEO and SBP President Al S. Panlilio. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo