The network of wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is ready for the expected surge in mobile data traffic in 2015, with more mobile users snapping up data-hungry smartphones in the last few weeks leading up to the holidays.
“The increasing affordability of smartphones is encouraging more users to upgrade and gift themselves with their very first smartphone,” according to Charles A. Lim, head of wireless consumer business at Smart Communications and Sun Cellular.
“We have prepared and fully modernized and expanded our network for this uptrend, in terms of reach and availability. Beyond that, we are also accelerating our data capacity build-out, as part of our continuous efforts to future-proof our network in light of increased demands in mobile data for the coming months and years,” he added.
Smart and Sun Cellular’s parent company PLDT reported in November higher capex levels for 2014, projected to be approximately P34.5 billion, compared to an earlier projected number of P32 billion. This capex is expected to be carried over into 2015, given the market’s continued appetite for data services, as more Filipinos start using smartphones.
According to the latest smartphone sales tracking report from Gartner, released this week, worldwide sales of smartphones grew 20 percent in the third quarter of 2014 – with much of the growth attributed to emerging markets in Asia and Africa. This mirrors Philippine data, showing smartphone sales in the country growing by about 22 percent in the same period, according to a report released in October by Singapore-based research firm GfK.
In the Smart network, over a fourth of Smart and Sun Cellular’s combined over 69 million subscribers are already using smartphones, helping drive a robust 112% increase in mobile data traffic within the network, equivalent to 27,000 terabytes worth of data exchanged from January to September 2014, compared with just 13,000 terabytes of data for the same period last year.
“We can only expect these volumes to increase exponentially in the months ahead. The positive response to the Smart Free Internet promo — a real game-changer in the industry in that it introduced mobile Internet to more people than ever before — gives us a very strong indication of Filipinos’ propensity for mobile data use,” Lim added.
Through the Smart Free Internet promo, all 69 million Smart, Talk ‘N Text and Sun Cellular subscribers can use their data-enabled cellphones to access the Internet without data charges for up to 30MB daily. It is available across all network platforms – from 2G to 3G to 4G speeds in the country.
Smart continues to have the largest mobile network in the country today, with a total of 24,938 cellular/broadband base stations, including 9,946 active 4G/HSPA+/Long-Term Evolution (LTE) base stations, supported by more than 90,000 kilometers of fiber-optic cables around the country.
The telco leader has also been aggressively expanding its high-speed mobile broadband network, deploying 4G/LTE in key cities and municipalities across the country. Earlier this year, Smart also fired up LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) at the Jump Center in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, then in Mactan, Cebu during the 10th Asian Carriers Conference (ACC) held at Shangri-La Mactan.
In Cebu, the potential of the latest wireless technology in the country was witnessed by members of the media and by participants to the ACC, an event normally attended by about 1,500 delegates from the best and biggest telcos in the world.
Smart is the first Philippine telco and one of a handful of carriers in the world to turn on LTE-A. LTE-A surpasses LTE standards, delivering data from 100 megabits per second (mbps) to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). This is ten times faster than 3G services and more than twice as fast as LTE.