Smart makes 1st 5G standalone video call in SE Asia

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SMART Communications, Inc. is continuing preparations for its fifth-generation (5G) rollout with the testing of standalone use cases of the network with technology partner Nokia Corp.

The wireless unit of PLDT, Inc. said in a statement over the weekend it recently made the first 5G standalone (5G SA) video call — or a connection relying solely on “pure 5G” for data transmission — in Southeast Asia using Nokia’s equipment.

“This is the first 5G implementation which is completely standalone. We don’t need LTE (long-term evolution network) for it,” Joachim Horn, chief information and technical advisor of PLDT and Smart, said in the statement.

“Most 5G implementations today actually need LTE — in fact they’re actually only fast LTE. What we’re seeing here — this is real 5G,” he added.

Countries that have so far launched 5G mostly use 5G non-standalone connection; meaning while the network rides on 5G frequencies, it still uses fourth-generation (4G) or LTE infrastructure.

Smart said with the testing of 5G SA, it explores new use cases for the network that would require ultra-low latency such as video analytics, industrial robotics control, remote crane or tractor operations and tactile sensors for real-time gaming.

“For the first time, we are experiencing the true capabilities of 5G. For example, 5G’s real low latency can only be achieved in this configuration. This is just the first milestone to show what is possible…,” Mr. Horn said.

The company is targeting to make its 5G network commercially available by early next year, initially for its Home and Enterprise customers.

Smart has also started the deployment of 5G-capable equipment as well as the rollout of LTE and LTE-Advanced equipment to its base stations.

Parent PLDT allocated P78.4 billion for capital investments this year.

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. — Denise A. Valdez