Smart to activate more LTE cellsites

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 July) – Expect faster and stronger internet speed next week as Smart Communications announced Tuesday that it will activate more long-term evolution (LTE) cellsites in the city as part of its three-year network rollout plan from 2016 to 2018.

In a press briefing at the Rekado’s here, Ramon Isberto, head of public affairs at PLDT and Smart, said that the upgrade was piloted in Davao City and will be rolled out soon in more developed urban centers such as Metro Manila and Cebu this year.

Isberto refused to disclose the number of cellsites that will be fired up but said it will triple the number of LTE cell sites within the year.

The works on the upgrade, he said, commenced since last year and completed only this month by physically overhauling the network’s 2G/3G antennas and replaced with hardware and software that will support the LTE bandwidth.

Last June, Isberto said Smart activated five 700 mhz cellsites in five locations in the city – Matina, Maa, San Pedro St., PLDT Building along Ponciano St., along Kilometer 4 near Davao City Golf Club.

Smart and competitor Globe acquired San Miguel Corp.’s 700 mhz bandwidth after the latter foiled negotiation with the Australian-based telco Telstra.

“Davao City continues to grow in importance as a major trade, enterprise, and tourism hub in Mindanao. In line with this, we are expanding the capacity and coverage of our network here, particularly for mobile data,” Isberto said.

He said they need to encourage more subscribers to use the LTE-enabled handsets since the faster data speed is designed for handsets using the LTE bandwidth.

He said that users of the 3G/2G network can benefit indirectly since the data load would lighten as the LTE users grow in number.

The telco executive said they are talking with Philippine-based phone manufacturers to come out with affordable LTE-enabled handsets.

“There are a number of handsets capable of LTE and LTE-advanced but relatively small. We want them to make more LTE handsets at more affordable prices,” he said.

Under the three-year program, the telco will continue deploying LTE in highly-populated areas, a move that will make LTE more pervasive in the country than it is today.

By year end, he said they are expecting nearly 40 percent of the total cities and towns and 60 percent of the population will be covered with the LTE network. In 2017, he said they hope to cover 50 percent of the total cities and towns and 60 percent of the population. By 2018, Smart intends to increase coverage to 95 percent of the total cities and towns and at least 97 percent of the population. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)