PLDT, Smart continue network expansion amid challenges due to COVID-19

Ciara Alarcon
Recognizing the need for internet connection and other data services, especially amid the coronavirus outbreak, PLDT, and its wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. continue their expansion efforts to upgrade their fixed and wireless networks across the Philippines.

PLDT, Smart continue network expansion amid challenges due to COVID-19
PLDT, Smart continue network expansion amid challenges due to COVID-19

While doing this, PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart President and Chief Executive Officer assured that they strictly observe and take safety precautions for the protection of their employees and customers.

“We have since made adjustments and have stepped up our network rollout and maintenance activities.   We are regaining the momentum of our sustained network rollout efforts over the past five years which have placed us in a strong position to cope with the surging demand for data services during the COVID pandemic,”  Panlilio said

PLDT and Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering Mario G. Tamayo added that in May 2020, the company is back in the same situation they had before the enhanced community quarantine was implemented.

“By May 2020, we were almost back to pre-ECQ levels.  We did this by carefully deploying our people in the field to do physical installations and upgrades and combining this with systems upgrades done remotely,” Tamayo said.

As of March, Smart has bolstered its 4G/LTE base stations to 26,000, which is up by 6% from end-2019 and 60% better than the end-2018.

PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which Smart also utilizes for high-capacity links to LTE base stations, now cover 338,500 kilometers nationwide which is 5% more than end-2019, and nearly 40% up compared to end-2018.

In April, Smart further increased the capacity of its LTE network by reallocating its assigned 1800 Mhz frequency from 2G to 4G/LTE. As a result, 3,785 2G base stations of Smart have also been providing additional capacity for its LTE network.

See Also: Complete List of Smart Prepaid Promos for Texts, Calls, and Data (Internet) for 2020

The expansion carried out by PLDT and Smart produced a positive impact, as confirmed in the latest analysis published by OpenSignal, which related the resilience of mobile networks in the Philippines amid the COVID-19 emergency.

“In the Philippines, the video has been a big driver of data consumption, and with measures such as the General community quarantine (GCQ) and Enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed in response to Covid-19, Filipinos are consuming videos on Youtube, Netflix, and other online streaming services more than ever, putting the mobile networks under pressure,” Opensignal’s Hardik Khatri wrote.
“As operators in the Philippines reported a dramatic surge in data consumption, we found that the quality of the video streaming experience over 4G connections was resilient,” Opensignal said.

The study, which covered the period Sept. 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, showed that while 4G Video Experience in March declined  by 7.2% in urban areas and 14.7% in rural areas, “the typical 4G Video Experience in the Philippines ranges from Fair to Good, which suggests that the mobile operators have been able to cope well during these extraordinary times.”

Among the areas covered by OpenSignal for this analysis include the urban and rural areas in the National Capital Region (NCR), North and Central Luzon, South Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

According to OpenSignal, 4G Video Experience in the majority of the regions improved between September 2019 and February 2020.

With this, rural users in Mindanao recorded the biggest improvement with 23.3% and urban areas in NCR with 9.1% in terms of 4G Video Experience.

When the government implemented strict restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, OpenSignal said that there was a decline in 4G Video Experience across all regions.

“Despite the downturn described above, users in the Philippines continue to enjoy a Good 4G Video Experience (55-65 on a 100 point scale) in the NCR, and a Fair 4G Video Experience (40-55) in the remaining regions regardless of whether they are based in urban or rural areas,” Opensignal said.

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