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PLDT-Smart heed gov't call to improve telco services, 2021 capex ‘between P88B-P92B’

by Smart Communications | Dec 14, 2020
The country's largest integrated telco PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are heeding the government's call to elevate the country's telecommunications industry and deliver world-class services.

"We support the call of the President to improve our services, and we have spent around Php260 billion in the last five years investing in our infrastructure. We invested Php73 billion last year, and we are ending this year with approximately the same level of capex spend. Our capex commitment next year is at a level that will be 20-25% higher than this year’s capex, focused on expanding our fiber footprint and our wireless coverage," said PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart Communications President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio, adding that, “With the surge in demand for data, we are prepared to invest between Php 88 billion and Php 92 billion next year to meet the requirements of all our mobile and fixed line customers. Providing good customer experience remains to be our 'North Star', as we aim to elevate PLDT and Smart to the level of global operators.”

"We want to benchmark ourselves, not just with local competition, but with our neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, as we would want our network performance to ultimately be at par with global companies," Panlilio said. "This is our aspiration, to really bring that level of service to the Filipino people."

In a special press briefing on the state of the telecommunications industry in the country conducted by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr., National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba said that President Duterte’s political will to see improvement in the country’s telecoms industry evidently resulted in some improvement in telecoms companies’ services.

Commissioner Cordoba reported that from July to November 2020, the average number of construction permits per month issued to Smart almost doubled, compared to the previous year's monthly average. According to the NTC, with the increase in issuance of construction permits, telcos were able to build more telecoms towers.

Since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued its Joint Memorandum Circular in August, Smart has secured more than 1,600 wireless permits. To date, Smart has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new cell sites fired up by the end of 2020 despite mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to COVID-19. These additional permits will help Smart increase its LTE population coverage, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas.

PLDT's fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, is now at more than 422,000 kilometers. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart's 5G, 4G, 3G and 2G networks, which cover 96% of the population and are present in 95% of cities and municipalities. As of November, Smart has also increased the number of its base stations to over 58,000, increasing the number of base stations by 20% compared to end-2019. Smart has also rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

On the part of the Palace, Sec. Roque said that the government acknowledges the improvements that the telcos have done for the telecoms industry. “I think we are one in recognizing we need to be world-class... Let us know what you need from government dahil ang importante po mabigyan ng world-class service ang sambayanang Pilipino,” Roque said.


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