PLDT-Smart ramps up 5G investments in 2021


After being the first to rollout 5G commercial services nationwide, the Philippines’ largest and only integrated telco PLDT is looking to hike investments in 5G to further improve customer experience and deliver cutting-edge services in 2021.

This investment includes the expansion of its fiber network, which is now at 395,000 kilometers nationwide as of end-September. This fiber network supports the full suite of services from PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), such as fiber-to-the-home, LTE and 5G.

“As we complete the build-out of our 4G network so that our coverage will be as close as possible to 100%, we are building out our 5G network as well,” said Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT Chairman and CEO. “5G will bring speed and capacity, not only to the individual users on the wireless platform, but also to the home.” To date, Smart LTE covers 95% of the population.

Pangilinan emphasized the importance of providing connectivity to the home, with the pandemic forcing people to spend more time at home for work, study and entertainment. “In about a year or two, the ability of delivering fixed wireless services to the home will increase significantly,” he said.

For Smart President and CEO and PLDT Chief Revenue Officer Alfredo S. Panlilio, 5G will further improve mobile data experience, particularly for video. “The major driver for business today is data. 72% of our revenues now is on data,” Panlilio said. “From a video consumption point of view, I think it will make the experience much better.”

Panlilio said that the company will be delivering more content through its different platforms to drive usage among its customers. “As an integrated telco, we are able to offer a full suite of services to our customers–from mobile internet to pocket wifi, to fixed wireless, to fiber. We believe that 5G will improve mobile internet capacity and experience, and we are also developing a lot of use cases. PLDT Enterprise will be driving some of those,” he said.

These initiatives form 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.

These investments likewise lay the foundation to support increasingly bandwidth-intensive applications which are driven by technological advancements, including 5G, cloud services, the internet-of-things and artificial intelligence.