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Smart upgrades its cell sites to LTE in Visayas

Image credit: pna.gov.ph

Many coastal towns and far-flung areas in Visayas can now enjoy high-speed mobile internet after Smart Communications upgraded all its cell sites to LTE (Long Term Evolution).

Smart said it has upgraded nearly 1,500 cell sites to LTE in the Visayas with the last upgraded site in Kawayan, a fifth-class municipality in Biliran. With this, all of Smart’s sites in the Visayas are on LTE. Smart has also expanded LTE capacity in the Visayas by 31% compared to end-2019.

To date, Smart said its LTE coverage is available in the major cities of Cebu, Iloilo, Bohol, Tacloban, Ormoc, Borongan, Catarman, Catbalogan, and Calbayog.

Mario Tamayo, PLDT-Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering, said rolling out and upgrading cell sites in the Philippine archipelago presents “unique challenges.” However, he confirmed that Smart is committed to improving its services through the expansion of its network.

Recently, they fired up an LTE base station in Pag-Asa Island in the municipality of Kalayaan, the country’s most remote cell site. They have also fired up a cell site in Brgy. Tucdao, Kawayan in Biliran. These are far-flung communities, but we are committed to doing this.

Gina Ang, former mayor of Kawayan, said the activation of LTE in their town will not only help boost economic activity but will also help continue the education of young Filipinos in the midst of the pandemic through online and blended learning.

“Before the pandemic, students used to flock to the old municipal hall to access the internet for their school activities,” Ang said.

As of August, Smart has increased the number of its LTE cell sites by 15% to a total of 28,200 nationwide. This “accelerated network rollout,” it said, forms part of the PLDT Group’s investment in telecommunications totalling PHP260 billion ((US$ 5.34 billion) from 2015 to 2019.

In 2016 the President of the Philippines signed the bill to create the new regulator, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). The DICT effectively replaces a number of agencies whose functions and responsibilities will be absorbed into the new body.

The DICT has developed a national broadband plan to accelerate the deployment of fibre-optic and wireless technologies across the country. The National Broadband Plan (NBP) was formally approved by the Philippines government in In March 2017.

OpenGov Asia recently reported on developments within the National Broadband Program (NBP). A part of DICT’s connect-connect-connect initiative, the NBP is the government’s blueprint to accelerate the deployment of fibre optic cables and wireless technologies across the country to provide broader, faster, and more affordable access to the Internet for Filipinos. They are especially targeting areas that are remote, inaccessible and considered unprofitable by the private sector.

This strategy not only serves citizens directly but also empowers other government agencies that serve such communities. Once the first phase of the DICT NBP is completed, agencies working in these locations will have access to cheaper and more reliable Internet services. This will reduce the government’s direct expenditure on connectivity costs and simultaneously ensure minimum downtown for their digital service offerings.

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