Smart targets to have 5G-ready network by 2020

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SMART Communications, Inc. is preparing for fifth generation (5G) technology through research and pilot-testing, with the goal of having a 5G-ready network by 2020.

In a statement, the wireless subsidiary of PLDT, Inc. said it has launched 5G Technolab, a facility that will be assigned for the research and development, standardization, and testing of 5G technology.

While 5G has yet to be made available by any operator in the world, PLDT is investing in pilot testing in order to future-proof the network, said Ernesto R. Alberto, PLDT and Smart executive vice-president and chief revenue officer.

“Even as 5G network technology is still at its early stages, and keeping in mind that it may take some time before 5G can be available commercially, we are already investing in pilot testing our 5G system and paving the way toward having a ‘5G-ready’ network by 2020,” Mr. Alberto said in a statement.

“We are working to transform our network to be able to address the needs of the future. To do this, we are investing not only in radio access, but also in upgrading the core and transport elements of our network,” he added.

Last year, PLDT and Smart signed a memorandum of understanding with Huawei Philippines “to shape the strategic and commercial development of the 5G ecosystem in the Philippines.”

Smart said it has initially achieved 5G-level speeds of 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) over a live network, in a demo conducted at Nokia Manila Technology Center in Quezon City.

5G involves the use of additional spectrum in the long-term evolution (LTE) frequencies, as well as extremely high frequencies, which aim to deliver fast speeds.

Smart said that part of future-proofing the network is its expanded roll-out of LTE, and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) and carrier aggregation (CA) technology across the country.

Smart has deployed two-component carrier (2CC), three-component carrier (3CC), and four-component carrier (4CC) aggregation in cities across Metro Manila, and in major cities in other regions of the country.

PLDT will spend as much as about P58 billion this year, a historic amount for the company for massive network infrastructure spending.

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. — Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo