Smart LTE-A Network Upgrade Drives Mobile Data Traffic Increase

Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), a wireless subsidiary of PLDT, has rolled out Long Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced sites across the country, resulting in a significant increase in mobile data usage.

As of now, more than 60% of Smart's sites nationwide have been upgraded to LTE, and 62% of the LTE sites are now LTE-A capable. In the first half of 2018, amid Smart's network upgrade, mobile data traffic grew by 79%, which is higher than the industry growth rate of 54% for the same period.

Smart LTE

Smart has also implemented 5-component-carrier (5CC) aggregation in Quezon City, following previous activations in Boracay and Marikina, which have delivered speeds of over 500 Mbps using 5CC-capable smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S9.

Carrier aggregation (CA) is a feature of LTE-A that allows the combination of two or more radio frequency bands to deliver greater bandwidth and faster data speeds to mobile phone users. The 5CC aggregation combines five bands, while 2CC, 3CC, and 4CC aggregations combine two, three, and four bands, respectively.

The Philippines' Fastest Network

According to the latest Mobile Networks Update by independent mobile analytics firm OpenSignal, Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) has maintained its lead in LTE download speeds and has continued to narrow the gap with its competitor in terms of LTE availability. 

The report, which covers the period from May to July 2018, shows that Smart's LTE download speeds nationwide were at 13.09 Mbps, while its competitor's speeds were at 7.34 Mbps. Smart's LTE availability has also improved and narrowed the gap to under 4 percentage points at 64%, compared to the competition's 67.79%. 

OpenSignal attributes Smart's increased overall speeds to its rapid rise in 4G availability, as customers now have access to 4G connections more frequently. 

Smart also leads in LTE download speeds across all measured areas, including the National Capital Region, North Central Luzon, South Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. In terms of LTE availability, Smart leads in the Visayas and is closing the gap in Metro Manila.

Smart Helps Improve Lives

Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering, emphasized that the accelerated deployment of LTE, LTE-A, and carrier aggregation across the country is not only about improving speeds but also about connecting families, empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses, and boosting local governments. 

Smart has installed over 3,900 new LTE base stations across the country, expanding LTE coverage and laying the groundwork for LTE-A, which can provide even greater capacity and speeds to users with capable smartphones. 

PLDT and Smart's fixed and mobile network rollout is underpinned by the expansion of PLDT's fiber optic transmission and distribution network, which increased by 29,000 kilometers in the first half of 2018. PLDT's fiber network, the most extensive in the country, also supports Smart's mobile network. 

Tamayo said they are also working with device manufacturers to make more LTE and LTE-A-capable devices available to customers, which is crucial for people to enjoy the improved service. Smart offers several LTE and LTE-A-capable smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Huawei P20 series, Huawei Mate 10, Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro, and OPPO F5.

Smart Fulfills Its Commitment to NTC

The recent efforts of PLDT and Smart to transform their networks have led to their recognition as the fastest fixed and mobile networks in the country for the first half of 2018 by Ookla, a global leader in internet testing and analysis. 

Smart is also on track to fulfilling its commitment to the National Telecommunications Commission of providing mobile data service to 90% of the country's cities and municipalities by the end of the year. 

To support the network transformation, PLDT has committed a significant amount of resources amounting to $5 billion from 2016 to 2020, with an expected capital expenditure of P58 billion for this year.

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