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PLDT transport network transformation key to serving growing demand for telco services in PH

by Smart Communications | Oct 23, 2020
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The transformed transport network also puts PLDT in a good position to deploy future 5G services, such as network slicing

The Philippines' largest and only integrated telco PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc (Smart) are further ramping up their transport network transformation, which is key to delivering cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, LTE and fiber-to-the-home.

This multi-year digital transformation journey began in 2017, and in February this year, PLDT inaugurated a nationwide, completely SDN-based, optic and IP network.

“We are looking at further expansion and modernization of our transport, because business has expanded on both fixed and wireless,” said PLDT Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan.

In 2019, PLDT launched its partnership with global technology leader Cisco on this transport network transformation project. This forms a large part of the PLDT Group’s sustained investments in their network, which totaled some Php260 billion from 2015 to 2019. With its network rollout regaining momentum following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT has leveled up its target capital expenditures for 2020 back up to Php70 billion or more.

“We thank Cisco for all the work that they are doing to modernize our transport network. Work is ongoing and I think I can safely say that we have the best integrated network, both fixed and wireless network, in the country today. So, thank you to Cisco for helping out,” Pangilinan added.

“Since the pandemic, we have seen our customers and partners, like PLDT, building out their infrastructure for the future. The world has changed, and the need to accelerate to support more traffic on the network, and for 5G and Enterprise services, has never been greater,” said Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems, Inc., in an interview ahead of PLDT Enterprise’s Philippine Digital Convention 2020 (PH Digicon) on Oct 28-30, for which he is a headline speaker.

Software-defined networking

Among the benefits of SDN or software-defined networking is automation. “Software-defined networking is meant to automate most of the provisioning. For example, through it we can enable our subscribers to do self-provisioning on the fly, depending on their needs,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT senior vice president for Network Planning and Engineering.

As of end-September, PLDT’s transport network or fiber optic network currently spans 395,000 kilometers—the most extensive in the country. This infrastructure also supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links for base stations.

Joachim Horn, PLDT chief technology and information advisor, also highlighted how the transformed transport network enabled PLDT and Smart to respond to increased customer demand for data, especially at the start of the lockdowns due to COVID-19.

“It was good that we launched this in February, because in March, COVID-19 hit us. The country went on one of the strictest lockdowns globally, and it put our customers in quite a difficult situation. Businesses, workplaces and schools had to close, and everything moved online. Even payments had to move to online. It’s a very challenging situation for the country,” he said.

“But luckily, because of this transformation, we were able to cope with the requirements--25% more traffic within the first week,” he said, adding that PLDT had to upgrade its transport network internationally, double their capacity, add 3-4 terabit per second in their IP backbone, as well as upgrade most of their nodes.

95% from ‘home’

“Because of the new technology, we were able to do this 95% to 98% by working from home. This new technology enabled us to remotely control, add capacity, activate services and optimize and manage user experience. Because of this, we were able to cope with the massive increase of the traffic,” he said.

Horn said that the transformed transport network also puts PLDT in a good position to deploy future 5G services, such as network slicing. “Our launching last July of 5G became much easier because this network is already in place. And for all the new features that 5G will be bringing, particularly when it comes to network slicing--we are very well-prepared. Our transport network will be able to cope with all that.”

Cisco is leading the disruption in the industry with its technology innovations in software-defined networking, 5G, subscriber experience (mobile, cable, fixed), automation, optical and optics. Together with its Customer Experience team of experts, Cisco enables service providers, media and web companies to reduce cost and complexity, helps scale and secure their networks, and grow their revenue.

Catch more insights from Cisco chair and CEO Chuck Robbins at PLDT Enterprise’s Philippine Digital Convention 2020 (PH Digicon) on Oct 28-30. To learn more about PH Digicon 2020, visit https://pldtenterprise.com/phdigicon2020

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