PLDT sets record capex of up to P92B in ’21

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    PLDT Inc. is set to spend a record-high capital expenditure (capex) of P92 billion in 2021 to fund the expansion of its fiber footprint and wireless coverage, given the strong pressure to deliver world-class services.

    PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. are spending approximately P73 billion this year, same as the capex spent last year, and this will increase between 20 to 25 percent by next year.

    “With the surge in demand for data, we are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion next year to meet the requirements of all our mobile and fixed line customers.

    Providing good customer experience remains to be our ‘North Star’, as we aim to elevate PLDT and Smart to the level of global operators,” Alfredo Panlilio, PLDT chief revenue officer and Smart president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

    The higher investment will also support President Duterte’s call to improve telecom services and provide world-class services.

    “We want to benchmark ourselves, not just with local competition, but with our neighboring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, as we would want our network performance to ultimately be at par with global companies,” Panlilio said. “This is our aspiration, to really bring that level of service to the Filipino people.”

    Since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued its joint memorandum circular in August that streamlined the processing of permits to put up cell sites, Smart has secured more than 1,600 wireless permits.

    To date, Smart said it has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new cell sites fired up by the end of 2020 despite mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to the new coronavirus.

    Smart said these additional permits will help increase its Long Term Evolution population coverage, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas.

    PLDT said its fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, is now at more than 422,000 kilometers. This fiber infrastructure supports Smart’s 5G, 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 its base stations to over 58,000, up by 20 percent compared to end-2019. Smart said it has also rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

    PLDT has spent around P260 billion in the last five years in network infrastructure.

    Gamaliel Cordoba, head of the National Telecommunications Commission, said recently telecom service in the country is expected to significantly improve by next year as more players compete in the market that will also result in lower prices of telco services. (M. Iglesias)