Digital solutions for health, learning, work and entertainment will be major pillars of the “new normal”, according to leading telco service provider PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).
“E-learning, e-health, e-work, e-sports and entertainment—-all underpinned by e-money—the new normal will be driven by digital, with video being the leading offering, as it has been very popular with our prepaid market,” said PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio.
Panlilio said customer need for these online services will continue even as quarantine restrictions are relaxed and people begin to return to their offices and places of work.
He said that the company expects data traffic to shift back to offices and central business districts as people gradually return to their workplace. On the other hand, many companies have signaled their intention to adopt flexible work arrangements, including work from home.
“That’s why it looks like e-work and telecommuting will become a permanent feature of the way many companies operate in the country,” Panlilio said.
Support for education sector
As schools gear up for the coming school year, online learning is figuring very prominently in the plans of many schools.
“E-learning is going to be a very significant initiative, not only for us but for government as well. It’s such a big ecosystem,” Panlilio said. “Aside from the platforms and the learning management systems, it’s also about devices. And of course, connectivity.”
He said that the country has about 30 million students that need help getting ready for the school opening in August set by the Department of Education.
“Do the students, teachers and schools have the devices to make e-learning possible? Appropriate learning modules have to be developed as well. It’s an ecosystem we have to build,” he said. “We are in the process of forging partnerships with the education sector so that we can help in facing this challenge.”
Panlilio said that PLDT’s hefty investments in network expansion over the past several years have put in a good position to meet the increased demand for data connectivity and digital services.
“Over the last five years, we have spent P260 billion in Capex, and that has made us very capable of serving our customers during this pandemic. Our investments in our network have paid off, we continue to deliver good customer experience,” Panlilio added.
“In the end, our objective really is to serve our customers, make sure their experience is good. We have sustained that during these very stressful times,” he said.
As the lockdown eases, Panlilio said he is hopeful that PLDT and Smart can continue expanding their fixed and wireless networks across the country.
“Due to the restrictions during the lockdown, our crew couldn’t really move around, a lot of checkpoints, a lot of barangays and communities did not allow our crew to go around. Also a primary concern at the start of the epidemic was the safety of our employees, as well as the safety of our customers,” he said. “As the situation improves, little by little we’ll be able to pick up on the plans we have to continue to expand our fixed and wireless networks.”
As of end-March, Smart has increased the number of 4G/LTE base stations to 26,000, up 6% from end-2019 and 60% more than end-2018. PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, which supports Smart’s network by providing high-capacity links to LTE base stations, is now at 338,500 kilometers nationwide, 5% more than end-2019 and up nearly 40% from end-2018.
In April, Smart further increased the capacity of its LTE network by reallocating its assigned 1800 Mhz frequency from 2G to 4G/LTE. As a result, 3,785 2G base stations of Smart were converted into LTE base stations, providing additional capacity for its LTE network.