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Faster Smart LTE boosts data package adoption

by Smart Communications, Inc. | Jul 11, 2017
[11 July 2017] PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. has unveiled a new generous data package that lets users take advantage of Smart’s ongoing Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollout, which has boosted network coverage and performance.

Smart’s new offer, a supersized Video Prime 99 that comes with 2GB data allocation and subscription to top streaming sites iflix and iWant TV, comes as J.P.Morgan’s latest Asia Network Quality study again shows Smart LTE as the fastest in the country.

Available to Smart Prepaid subscribers, Smart’s Video Prime 99 gives users the convenience of having both subscriptions to iflix and iWant TV, as well as data to stream blockbuster films or series on these mobile apps, valid for 7 days.

“With these network improvements and new offers, we are giving our subscribers the opportunity to live their digital lifestyles to the fullest by upgrading to LTE-ready devices and Smart LTE SIMs, and take advantage of Smart’s newest and fastest network,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering.

“We are committed to bring Smart LTE to more areas in the Philippines and to make it available to even more Filipinos like never before,” Tamayo added. “We target to blanket with LTE close to half of the country’s cities and municipalities, covering 70% of the population, by the end of this year.”

‘Significant momentum’

Gains from the ongoing network upgrade can already be felt in the areas where the rollout is taking place, with subscribers already reporting better network performance.

This is affirmed in the latest J.P.Morgan study, which covers the months of March to May, and which showed that Smart’s LTE still leads in terms of download speeds nationwide, as well as across all areas. On the nationwide level, Smart LTE posted an average download speed of 11.1 Mbps, while across areas it ranged from 9.2 Mbps in South Luzon to 12.6 Mbps in Metro Manila.

“PLDT’s Smart has significant momentum in LTE speeds across all circles measured. This implies a higher likelihood of market share gains going forward, with potentially better pricing power,” J.P.Morgan said in its report, which cited crowd-sourced data gathered by wireless coverage research firm OpenSignal.

The study also showed Smart LTE availability improving nationwide to 51.5%, up from 45.54% in February. Across areas, Smart LTE availability also improved, ranging from 42.62% in South Luzon to 60.13% in Metro Manila in the latest report, an improvement from when it ranged from 38% to 49% in February.

Findings show that Smart is on track toward meeting its three-year network roll-out plan submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission in July last year, where Smart committed to make LTE progressively available to 95% of cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

LTE, an all-IP network, delivers superior experience for users, particularly for data. It can also be quickly upgraded to LTE-A, which can provide even faster speeds and greater capacity to subscribers who are using LTE SIMs on LTE-capable handsets.

“This strategic LTE rollout not only gives an immediate boost to internet speeds and reliability, but lays the foundation for further improvements as well,” said Tamayo.

Smart is currently re-equipping its cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz and 850 MHz to provide better indoor coverage. It is also deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz to increase the cell sites’ capacity to handle more calls, texts, and ever-increasing mobile data traffic.

“We are asking for people’s patience and understanding as we are upgrading our network facilities. We assure you that we are taking steps to minimize the impact of these activities on our subscribers. In the end, our commitment to all our subscribers is that they will enjoy progressively better mobile data services in the next few months, particularly for those using LTE devices,” he added.

Recent internal tests have also shown improvements in speed in areas involved in the ongoing network rollout. Average LTE download speeds in northern Metro Manila, for example, are at 21.7 Mbps, while speeds are at 14.6 Mbps on average using Smart’s LTE service in southern Metro Manila. In Cebu, on the other hand, average download speeds on Smart’s LTE service are at 20.1 Mbps.

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 the new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets. PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan has announced a total capital expenditure of P46 billion this year. [END]