Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Smart to optimize network assets, look into new and quick-to-rollout tech to serve underserved areas

Leading integrated telco network PLDT Inc (PLDT)'s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) is banking on deploying new technologies to be able to serve more far-flung areas across the country. 

"We have multiple initiatives and are testing several proofs of concept (POCs) as we search for the best technologies suited to serve more underserved areas," said Eric Santiago, PLDT and Smart Network Head, at the recent PLDT first-half earnings media briefing.

Santiago said that the company is looking into technologies that would enable a cost-effective and faster network rollout, as well as studying how to leverage existing network assets.

"We are looking at 'lite BTS' (base stations) that could be quickly deployed to provide wireless services. At the same time, we are also optimizing our network assets by reallocating and utilizing our existing infrastructure and redeploying them to areas where we see new communities being built," Santiago explained.

Santiago added that Smart is also currently using technologies such as Massive MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) to boost speeds and coverage. "Massive MIMO enables us to increase the coverage footprint of a cell site by 30% and its capacity by 20%, just by optimizing its base stations," Santiago said.


Meanwhile, Smart is also looking into expanding the use of solar energy for its cell sites using solar panels with battery storage systems via the 'Solar Energy as a Service' (SEaaS) model, which will improve the availability of power supply, especially in areas where there is limited or no commercial power, boosting Smart's ability to serve more remote communities.


These technologies are expected to bolster PLDT and Smart's integrated fixed and wireless networks. The PLDT Group has further expanded its total fiber footprint to over 1.1 million kilometers, consisting of over 231,000 kilometers of international fiber and over 885,000 kilometers of domestic fiber as of end-June 2023. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s mobile network, which covers around 97% of the population with 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G.


PLDT and Smart's continuous efforts to enhance their networks are aligned with the Group's commitment to the Government's overall digitalization thrust to narrow the digital divide as one of the founding members of the government-mandated Presidential Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) under the Digital Infrastructure Pillar.


These also boost PLDT's aspirational multi-year transformation, elevating customer experience as one of the key priorities, as well as contribute to the Group’s endeavors to provide connectivity to all, bringing the benefits of the internet to more communities while integrating sustainable solutions in the Group's daily operations.


These are also in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) particularly SDG No. 9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, SDG No. 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG No. 13 – Climate Action. 

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