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Smart expands network capacity in 53 provinces using new frequencies

by SMART Public Affairs | Jun 23, 2016
[23 June 2016] Wireless leader Smart Communications (Smart) is expanding the capacity of its cellular phone service in cities and municipalities of 53 provinces all over the country using the new frequencies it has gained access to

The PLDT subsidiary announced it has fired up 108 cell sites in different parts of the country using the additional 1800 MHz frequency spectrum formerly assigned to the telecoms businesses of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

Smart is initially using the 1800 MHz to more quickly expand the capacity of its 2G network to handle more calls and text messages particularly in dense urban areas in Metro Manila, North Luzon, South Luzon, and some areas in Visayas and Mindanao.

This complements a parallel effort to use the additional frequencies to strengthen Smart's mobile data service, particularly via LTE (Long-Term Evolution), throughout the country. LTE is the fourth-generation (4G) mobile phone technology that currently provides the fastest wireless data service commercially available.

Smart previously announced it has fired up its first batch of LTE cell sites using the 700 MHz spectrum in Tanay, Rizal; Matina, Davao City; and Manggahan area in Pasig City, and has posted peak download speeds of up to 101 Mbps, on a single-band, 700-MHz LTE set-up. In the Tanay cell site, Smart combined its 700 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands using the carrier aggregation capability of LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), resulting in peak speeds of up to 222 mbps.

Peak speeds refer to the maximum possible data rate that may be achieved, on a single-user basis. The actual speeds that may be experienced under normal circumstances will be influenced by the number of users being served by a particular base station.

Smart plans to activate 360 cell sites with 700 MHz this year, initially in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao.

"Having access to these frequencies is just one part of our massive network program. We will have to expand the capacity of our transmission links and international circuits, in order to handle the expected rise in data traffic. We will need to work with device manufacturers so we can help customers upgrade to more sophisticated but increasingly more affordable handsets and devices that can take advantage of the new powerful network that is being put in place,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor at PLDT and Smart.

Smart’s drive to boost data coverage and capacity across the country forms a major part of the PLDT’s capital expenditure program. PLDT has set aside about P43 billion in total capex for 2016. It has allocated an additional US$100 million to utilize the additional frequencies from the co-acquisition of SMC’s telecoms business.