Smart to roll out LTE to the rest of Cebu

By Victor Anthony V. Silva |August 31,2017 - 11:19 PM

Ramon Isberto (standing, right), Public Affairs group head and first vice president of PLDT and Smart Communications Inc., discusses the firm’s LTE plans in Cebu during a press briefing in Cebu City. With him are Mario Tamayo, PLDT and Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering (left), and Jinky Cajulao, Smart marketing representative.
(CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

Following the completion of network improvements and the introduction of LTE in Metro Cebu, Smart Communications Inc. is set to expand its wireless coverage in other parts of the island province.

Smart, which is a wireless subsidiary of telecoms and digital service provider PLDT, will roll out LTE to the rest of Cebu this year.

“After completing Metro Cebu, we will roll out LTE to the rest of the province this year, including some of Cebu’s tourist-popular and progressive areas such as Daanbantayan, Moalboal, Oslob, and Toledo City,” Mario Tamayo, PLDT and Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering, said.

Three-year plan

Smart began its LTE rollout in Metro Cebu last year and has now completely covered Liloan in the north until Talisay City in the south.

This keeps with the three-year network rollout plan submitted to the National Communications Commission in July last year, where Smart committed to make LTE progressively available to 95 percent of cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

Tamayo said they are currently upgrading 4,000 cell sites across the country, with work on each one taking approximately two weeks.

Network upgrades

Smart’s network improvement efforts in Metro Cebu, as well as in other major business hubs such as Metro Manila and Metro Davao, include re-equipping its cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz and 850 MHz to provide better indoor coverage, and deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz to increase cell sites’ capacity to handle more calls, texts, and ever-increasing mobile data traffic.

“We target to blanket 70 percent of the country’s population with LTE by the end of the year,” said Tamayo.

LTE or “Long Term Evolution” is a mobile technology that delivers the fastest wireless data service commercially available and is 10 times faster than 3G.

This comprehensive network modernization and expansion program is at the core of the PLDT group’s digital pivot.

Smart’s network rollout took a big bulk of PLDT’s ramped-up capital expenditure program of P42.8 billion for 2016, which included the utilization of

new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corp.’s telco assets.
The announcement of a province-wide rollout also came with the official launch of the LTE platform for subscribers of Sun Cellular, which is the

mobile brand of PLDT wireless unit Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. (DMPI).

Sun LTE

“With our improved LTE network in Cebu, many opportunities and possibilities are now within reach of our Cebuano Sun and Smart subscribers,” Tamayo said.

Sun LTE was introduced to the media at the Casino Español de Cebu on Thursday, August 30, but has been available since early last month.

Metro Cebu is home to more than 2.8 million Filipinos, while passenger arrivals at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport hit nearly nine million last year. It is also the country’s largest outsourcing destination outside of Metro Manila.

Cebu also hosts around 1.4 million smart subscribers and 1.8 million Sun subscribers, but Tamayo said 70 to 80 percent of them are still on 2G or 3G.

He said they are encouraging their customers to check their SIMs and upgrade them to LTE for free so they can fully enjoy their improved network.

Subscribers who wish to upgrade their SIMs to LTE can go to the nearest Smart Store to have their SIMs replaced free of charge. Postpaid users need to also bring a valid ID for verification.

For Sun subscribers, starting October, they can also upgrade their 3G SIMs to LTE in Sun Shops.

JP Morgan study

A recent JP Morgan study showed that Smart LTE led in terms of average download speeds nationwide with 11 Mbps, while Visayas posted 8.3 Mbps average download speeds for the months of April to June.

Smart said recent internal tests have also shown improvements in speed in Cebu, where median download speeds posted by its LTE service are at 17.6 Mbps.

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