Higher capex to fund telco’s expansion


    Continued network expansion to further improve the internet speed and coverage of both its wireless and fixed networks has prompted a telecommunication company to allocate higher capital expenditure (capex) for 2020 .

    Manuel Pangilinan, PLDT chairman, said the capex for next year will be higher than this year’s budget of P78.4 billion without giving the figure.

    “Yes, it looks like (higher). The technology group is continuing to make the network more robust, our transport system is being modernized and digitalized totally, it’s going to be a more robust transport system, there’s some of investment that is needed for 4G (fourth generation) but starting on 5G (fifth generation) and the (IT) information technology part of it,” Pangilinan told reporters on the sidelines of the PLDT and Araneta Group’s signing of an agreement for 5G launch.

    For the wireless network, PLDT will build more base stations and make more investments on 4G and 5G. For the fixed network, Pangilinan said the investment is for the transport system of PLDT on the backbone and completion of fibering of the cell sites.

    Of the P78.4-billion capex earmarked for 2019, PLDT has spent P53.4 billion nine months into the year.

    About 75 percent of the capex has been poured into network and IT systems which include investments in increased Long-Term Evolution coverage and capacity, expanded fiber transport to support both fixed broadband and mobile data, and new international cable networks.

    PLDT is on track to start the commercial rollout of 5G in the first quarter of 2020.

    PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. forged an agreement with the Araneta Group to launch 5G technology in the premier lifestyle hub Araneta City and transform it into the country’s first Smart 5G Lifestyle Hub, which will feature the country’s first 5G indoor deployment and the first 5G-enabled shopping mall.

    Virtual reality, cloud gaming and enhanced mobile broadband on 5G-capable devices were also among the technologies showcased during the launch.

    Smart has rolled out fast, free and open fiber-powered Wi-Fi connectivity through Google Station in key areas, including Gateway Mall, Smart Araneta Coliseum, New Frontier Theater and the Araneta City bus port, to name a few.

    “Over the years, we have worked with the Araneta Group in achieving their vision to elevate the experience of Filipino mall-goers. Today, we are taking another big step forward into the future and revolutionizing the Filipino entertainment experience by deploying cutting-edge digital technology and high-quality connectivity in the country’s first Smart 5G Lifestyle Hub, Araneta City,” Pangilinan said.

    Last year, PLDT fired up its first 5G base stations in Clark and Makati and launched the first Smart 5G Cities.

    Earlier this year, the company launched the first Smart 5G Campus in Ateneo as well as the Smart 5G Alliance, which is composed of global tech leaders and local stakeholders across the business, government and academe sectors, and is envisioned as an accelerator for 5G innovations in the Philippine setting.

    With its capability to deliver extremely high speeds coupled with low latency, 5G opens up many possible applications for the Internet of Things and smart cities, as well as smart applications for the retail, transport, manufacturing, logistics and warehousing sectors, as well as intelligent solutions for customer support and smart homes, among others.

    5G is a versatile technology that can provide a more flexible and powerful platform for entirely new services.

    Smart has been testing 5G since 2016, when it achieved speeds of 2.5 Gigabits per second using 100 MHz with latency of just 1 millisecond over a “live” network – the first in the Philippines.

    Earlier this year, Smart made the first 5G standalone video call in Southeast Asia at the PLDT-Smart 5G Technolab in Makati City.

    In the first nine months of 2019, Smart increased its 4G base stations by about 5,500 from end-2018 to about 21,700.

    PLDT further expanded the coverage of its fiber fixed broadband network by 12 percent versus end-2018 to 7.1 million homes.

    The total available fiber-powered ports for customers had reached about 1.7 million by end-September 2019. Also, the total footprint of PLDT’s transmission and distribution network grew 26 percent versus end-2018 to nearly 307,000 kilometers of fiber cables.