Data revenues now make up 69% of total revenues of the Consumer Wireless Group, which posted total revenues of P72.1 billion in 2019, up 20%
It used to be just talk and text. But with more and more people going online with their mobile phones, cellular operators are transforming themselves into mobile internet providers.
For Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), this massive shift has been paying off, with data connectivity and digital services crossing crucial growth thresholds and now increasingly making up the bulk of the services it is delivering to customers.
Mobile data traffic on Smart’s network hit a record-high of 1.6 Exabytes (1,612 Petabytes) in 2019, driving further the digital transformation of PLDT’s wireless business.
Last year’s mobile data traffic is double the 824 petabytes posted in 2018, and more than four times compared to 2017 levels. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, mobile data traffic reached 506 Petabytes, an increase of 16 percent over the previous quarter, and 87% up from the same quarter in 2018.
The exponential growth in data traffic has been mainly from video streaming, social networking and gaming—activities which need the support of robust networks to ensure quality customer experience. Data revenues now make up 69% of total revenues of the Consumer Wireless Group, which posted total revenues of P72.1 billion in 2019, up 20% year-on-year.
“Our sustained network improvement efforts over the past several years have given us the crucial advantage—enabling us to offer compelling data service offers that address our customers’ passions and pain points. This has powered our current revenue growth and is positioning us well for the future,” said Smart President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer Alfredo S. Panlilio.
Mobile data usage also grew rapidly on the back of Smart’s GIGA data service offers that address customers’ growing demand for various internet services. GIGA started in 2018 with video packages that offered free Youtube as well as other popular video services and was followed by other GIGA data packages that bundled mobile games such as Mobile Legends and social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok.
“Moving forward, we aim to further improve the experience of our customers by helping them to shift to LTE handsets and SIMs and by providing increasingly rich GIGA data offers that enable people to effectively address their various life needs all through the mobile phone in their hands,” said Jane J. Basas, Senior Vice President for Consumer Individual Wireless Business.
To support our customers’ growing data habit as well as the increasing number of LTE smartphone users among Smart, Sun and TNT customers, PLDT and Smart have continued to expand their fixed and mobile networks across the country.
In 2019, PLDT increased its total fiber footprint by 32% to 322,400 kilometers, the country’s most extensive digital backbone and transport network. Meanwhile, Smart also expanded its coverage and capacity further by increasing the number of its 4G/LTE stations by 51% to about 24,600, as well as its 3G base stations by about 19% to 13,800. As of end-December 2019, Smart’s mobile coverage has expanded to 94% of the country’s population.
Smart’s LTE rollout has also been enhanced by the activation of LTE’s carrier aggregation feature, which enables the combination of the capacity of up to five LTE base stations to deliver faster data speeds. Smart’s network is supported by PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which provide high-capacity links for LTE base stations.
This sustained LTE rollout has enabled Smart to provide better internet services, as also cited by several international internet analytics firms. For example, global leader in internet testing and analysis Ookla cited PLDT and Smart for being the fastest fixed and mobile networks in the Philippines in two reports covering the first and second halves of 2019.
Meanwhile, international mobile data analytics firm Opensignal has also recognized Smart for providing the best mobile video and fastest data experience. Smart also overtook its competitor in 4G availability in both urban and rural areas, Opensignal noted.
Smart also won the “Best in Test Award for 2019” and was cited for having the best and widest 4G/LTE coverage and the fastest upload and download speeds by umlaut, the global internet benchmarking company formerly known as P3.
PLDT’s sustained level of investments in the country’s telecommunications infrastructure now totals P257.7 billion over the last five years. For 2020, PLDT has allocated a larger capex budget of P83 billion to serve better the fast-growing data usage of customers and continue to provide superior data CX. This amount includes allocations for network and IT projects to support the explosive growth in data traffic, as well as allocations for broadband installations, which are projected to grow strongly in 2020.