PLDT sets P73B capex in 2021

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    PLDT Inc. and its wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. are expected to infuse more than P73 billion for capital expenditure by 2021 to fund their network expansion.

    “We are investing P73 billion this year, and next year will be much higher than that. We will continue to invest in infrastructure and coverage. 5G will also help improve mobile experience,” said Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and chief executive officer.

    Panlilio also noted the role of devices in improving customer experience.

    “The right handsets will give the best experience on the right network. Right now, we still have a considerable number of people still on 2G. We have programs to upgrade them to 4G/LTE (Long Term Evolution), because that is where the experience will be much, much better. You need to have the right devices to have the right experience,” he said.

    To elevate the Philippines to global standards, Smart said it is looking at minimum average broadband speeds of at least 30 megabits per second (Mbps) in Metro Manila and key cities by 2021, using appropriate devices on the LTE network. By 2025, Panlilio said, 84 percent of the population covered will be at 60 Mbps.

    Meanwhile, PLDT said it is eyeing minimum average broadband speeds of 20 Mbps as it accelerates the migration of its customers using legacy copper digital subscriber line to fiber and fiber-like services.

    PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, is now at more than 422,000 kilometers. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s 4G, 3G and 2G networks, which cover 96 percent of the population and are present in 95 percent of cities and municipalities.

    As of November, Smart has also increased the number of its LTE and 3G base stations to over 58,000, raising the number of LTE base stations by 20 percent compared to end-2019.

    Smart said it likewise rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

    To date, Smart has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new towers fired up this year despite mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to the pandemic. These will help Smart increase its LTE population coverage, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas.