PLDT and subsidiary move on record Q3 tower permits
PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications have announced increased 5G investments to improve customer experience and services in 2021.
The additional cash will cover the expansion of PLDT’s 395,000km fibre network, which currently supports fibre-to-the-home (FTTH), LTE and 5G services. To date, Smart LTE covers 95% of the population.
“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… In about a year or two, the ability of delivering fixed wireless services to the home will increase significantly,” he said.
For Alfredo S. Panlilio, Smart’s president and CEO and PLDT chief revenue officer, 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 fibre. 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 continued.
Record Q3 tower permits
The news came as PLDT and Smart announced they had secured a record number of permits for new towers in Q3.
An additional 600 new permits were issued, approximately doubling the number of permits granted to PLDT since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued a Joint Memorandum Circular in August. It requested automatic approval of tower permits after seven days a move intended to boost telecoms infrastructure across the country.
PLDT’s new permits cover towers to be built in Metro Manila and Rizal, along with provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and other locations.
“We are grateful for the government’s initiatives that make it possible for us to build more towers in order to deliver the best network quality and nationwide coverage, including the unserved and underserved areas in our country,” Panlilio commented in a statement.
Panlilio said that Smart typically builds around 1,000 to 1,500 towers annually. Smart has also tapped six tower companies to build the initial batch of 180 to 200 common towers in support of the government’s common tower policy.
PLDT Group said the “accelerated roll out” is part of improvement efforts that are being channelled into fixed and wireless infrastructure.
In addition to about 10,000 macro and micro-cell sites and more than 50,000 base stations across the country, PLDT already has the most extensive fibre network.
The investments form a large part of PLDT Group’s sustained network capex, which totalled some Php260 billion from 2015 to 2019. For 2020, with the network rollout regaining momentum following the easing of lockdown restrictions, PLDT said it has “levelled up its target capital expenditures back up to about Php70 billion or more”.
In July, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the country’s “lousy” telcos to improve services and issued a December deadline for the improvements.
During a televised address on economic recovery post-Covid, Duterte said: “I call on our [telecommunication] companies to improve their services lest we be forced to take drastic steps to address the less-than-ideal service that the public is getting from you.”