PLDT-Smart says nearly 1,500 cell sites in Visayas upgraded to LTE

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SMART COMMUNICATIONS, Inc., the wireless unit of PLDT Inc., said on Tuesday all its cell sites in central Philippines had been upgraded to LTE or long-term evolution, which increases the capacity and speed of wireless data networks.

“The activation of LTE in far-flung coastal community Kawayan, a fifth-class municipality in island province Biliran, Eastern Visayas, brings to nearly 1,500 the number of sites in the region now operating on LTE,” Smart said in an e-mailed statement.

The mobile network operator added all of its sites in the Visayas are now on LTE.

“Smart has also expanded LTE capacity in the Visayas by 31% compared to end-2019,” it said.

To date, all of Smart’s sites in the VIsayas are already on LTE. Smart has also expanded LTE capacity in the Visayas by 31% compared with end-2019.

Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering, said: “Rolling out in an archipelago and in the countryside presents unique challenges. This has to be taken into consideration. Recently, we fired up an LTE base station in Pag-asa Island in the municipality of Kalayaan, the country’s most remote cell site. We have also fired up a cell site in Brgy. Tucdao, Kawayan in Biliran. These are far-flung communities, but we are committed to doing this. We have been constantly improving our services by expanding our network wherever possible.”

Smart announced recently that the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea is now covered by its LTE network service.

Telcos are hoping to improve connectivity in remote areas soon in response to the new normal caused by the pandemic.

Industry participants said the goal is achievable with stimulus legislation that reduces the requirements for permits needed to put up and operate cellular towers.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte recently signed Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act (Bayanihan II), an economic stimulus program that grants the government the power to simplify the permit process for building cell towers.

“PLDT and Smart will continue to invest in building the network. In terms of affordability, we are trying to balance the needs of our customers and their capability to avail of our services. We always make sure that we offer reliable services. Expect improvement in our services this year and next year,” Mr. Tamayo said in a recent online forum.

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. – Arjay L. Balinbin