PLDT mobile unit Smart Communications’ ongoing network rollout in and around Metro Manila is beginning to pay off, starting with the province of Rizal.
According to internal tests done in the first two weeks of February, Smart’s mobile internet coverage and quality in a large portion of Rizal has improved, particularly its 4G or LTE (Long Term Evolution) service.
Average download speeds of Smart’s LTE service jumped 455% to 23.3 Mbps while the average download speed of its 3G service rose by 37% to 3.7 Mbps.
As a result, subscriber data usage has also risen in Rizal. Network monitoring shows data usage on LTE doubled during this period, while data usage on 3G has increased by 22%.
These marked improvements in the quality and reach of Smart’s mobile internet services in the area are the result of the significant increase in the number of LTE and 3G base stations in Rizal– LTE base stations soared 18 times while 3G base stations more than doubled.
“The Rizal results are very promising since they indicate what Smart is looking to achieve for Metro Manila – where we will make mobile data on LTE and 3G as pervasive as possible, providing fast speeds and great quality to all Smart mobile data users,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart.
In the densely populated areas of Antipolo City and the municipality of Tanay, and along major thoroughfares in the province like Marcos Highway, for example, initial tests show that Smart users are already experiencing improvements in the quality of their mobile internet experience.
According to Horn, “these are early results of the rollout, and Smart is still in the process of equipping more base stations in Rizal that use low-frequency bands, to improve the coverage of both LTE and 3G.”
“We are asking for people’s patience and understanding while we are making a lot of changes in our network facilities. These activities are being done during the most inactive hours of the day, and we are putting systems in place to keep to a minimum the impact 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,” added Horn.
Smart recently announced a major network expansion over the next three months, to quadruple its indoor LTE coverage and double its indoor 3G coverage across all 17 cities of Metro Manila, the country’s capital and also the most densely populated area.
To achieve this, Smart is deploying new base station equipment in about 2,500 cell sites across Metro Manila, that use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz, 850 MHz, and 900 MHz for its LTE and 3G services, since these frequency bands cover a larger area and provide better indoor signals.
The rollout also includes deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz, to increase the capacity of each Smart cell site to handle more calls, texts, and ever-increasing mobile data traffic.
According to Horn, Smart started this network overhaul program in Boracay and Metro Davao in the early part of 2016, where subscribers have already reported significant improvements in the coverage and quality of Smart’s mobile data service, particularly for LTE. Activities for both Metro Cebu and Metro Manila are ongoing.
Smart has previously announced that it is focused on accelerating the deployment of LTE, because it is all-IP (internet protocol), which delivers a superior data experience.
“At the same time, LTE provides us the platform to quickly upgrade to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), which can provide greater capacity and much faster data speeds,” added Horn.
In the three-year network roll-out plan that parent-company PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in July last year, Smart said it will make LTE progressively available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.
The plan includes the use of the 700 MHz frequency that Smart obtained access to under a co-use arrangement, after the acquisition of the telecoms business of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) by PLDT and Globe Telecom in May last year.