Smart boosts LTE, 3G coverage in Metro Cebu
As part of its thrust to bring high-speed internet service to 95 percent of the country’s cities and towns, Smart Communications is undertaking a major expansion of its mobile internet coverage in Metro Cebu over the next three months.
Under the plan, which is part of the company’s three-year network improvement program, Smart is boosting the coverage of its LTE and 3G mobile data services in Metro Cebu.
“The activities we are implementing will greatly improve the reach and quality of our mobile phone and mobile internet services in Metro Cebu which is the central hub for business, education and tourism in the Visayas region,” said Joachim Horn, PLDT-Smart chief technology and information advisor, at a press briefing in Cebu City on Wednesday.
The biggest gain would be in LTE coverage, which would increase fourfold, while 3G coverage would double in the country’s largest urban center, Horn added.
LTE or “Long Term Evolution” is a mobile technology that delivers the fastest wireless data service commercially available.
Among other activities, this will be achieved by re-equipping existing cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz, 850 MHz, and 900 MHz for its LTE and 3G services.
These frequency bands, Horn explained, travel farther than high-frequency bands; thus, providing better coverage for mobile data services, including indoors.
In the three-year network roll-out plan that parent company PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last July, Smart said its focus would be on accelerating LTE deployment, making it progressively available to users in 1,551 cities and towns across the country by end-2018.
PLDT-Smart had put up P47.5 billion in capital expenditure for the expansion in 2016 and had been projected to spend more or less the same amount in the next two years.
This roll-out plan includes the use of the 700 MHz frequency band that Smart obtained access to under a co-use arrangement after PLDT and Globe jointly acquired the telecoms assets of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) for P70 billion last May.
Antitrust body Philippine Competitiveness Council (PCC) intended to mount an investigation on the deal as it was not deemed approved, adding that the comprehensive review was “intended to ensure that the transaction will, in the end, result in sustained gains for the public by not restricting competition.”
The Court of Appeals, in response to a consolidated petition by PLDT and Globe, on August 30 issued a preliminary injuction against PCC, directing the body to refrain from conducting an investigation until further orders from the court.
The petitioners, in their plea, said the buy-out already had prior approval from the NTC “and a review by PCC would be an illegal encroachment upon the jurisdiction and mandate of the NTC.”
700 MHz band
Should the PCC reject the acquisition outright, Horn said the three-year roll-out plan would basically be “killed.”
“The plan is built on the 700 MHz band reliability. We consider this an enormous opportunity (to improve mobile service coverage in the country),” he added.
Horn said that the roll out in Cebu would not be affected even so, as they can carry out improvements with or without the acquired frequencies.
Ramon Isberto, head of the Smart public affairs group, said that they were pursuing the plan as it had already been in place prior to challenges with the PCC.
He added they had remained hopeful the antitrust body would “resolve the issue favorably in the interest of the public.”
“(We are) under so much pressure to deliver better internet services. Now, we have an opportunity to do so with the resources that have been made available, and we hope we will be given a chance to really do it,” Isberto said.
In the course of improvements in hardware and software, Isberto said small clusters of subscribers might experience service disruption from time to time.
He assured the public, however, that these activities would be done during the inactive hours of the day to reduce the impact on subscribers.
Metro Cebu is among Smart’s initial deployment areas of radio frequencies previously assigned to SMC.
Using these new frequencies, the company would not only be expanding network reach but also be enhancing the capacity of each cell site to handle more calls, texts and mobile data traffic.
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