Rising demand, competition to drive 5G rollout

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    The country’s three telecom providers – PLDT Inc. wireless unit Smart Communications Inc., Globe Telecom Inc. and Dito Telecommunity Corp. – are expected to intensify their fifth generation (5G) rollout by next year, driven by the stiff competition over internet speed and coverage to address rising demand.

    Smart is upgrading to 5G network close to 4,000 base stations in key areas across the country to augment its data capacity and support data traffic growth in 2021.

    “This means that around 40 percent of our sites will have 5G at the end of next year,” Joachim Horn, PLDT chief technology and information advisor, said in statement.

    Smart has also rolled out 496 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.

    As of end November this year, PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the most extensive in the country, is now at more than 422,000 kilometers, supporting Smart’s 4G, 3G and 2G networks, which cover 96 percent of the population.

    To date, PLDT said Smart has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new towers fired up this year despite the mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to the new coronavirus.

    “By the end of 2020, we will have fired up 726 new towers within this year,” said Horn.5G is the latest wireless internet connectivity that promises faster speeds, higher bandwidth, and more stable internet connections compared to 4G.

    Globe, meanwhile, expects to cover 80 percent of Metro Manila with 5G technology by end-2020. Currently, it has 708 sites upgraded to 5G, making this available in 17 key cities in Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao.

    As more 5G-capable devices enter the market, Globe said it will continue to aggressively rollout 5G to more cities and municipalities to serve the early adopters.

    With a better data network in place, voice services will likewise improve by providing voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) and voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) to deliver clearer voice calls, faster call setup and near zero dropped calls.

    Globe said VoLTE and VoWiFi are initially being rolled out in the National Capital Region (NCR) and in other parts of Luzon, and will be implemented in Visayas and Mindanao by 2021.

    By 2021, Globe’s ambition is to provide customers with 4G/LTE services everywhere and 5G where it matters. By making 4G/LTE the new mobile standard for the Philippines, more customers will experience better data and faster internet speed anywhere they are.

    Since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued its joint memorandum circular in August to streamline the permits needed to put up cell sites, the two incumbent telcos have secured almost 3,500 permits to build new cell sites, bulk of which are expected to be completed this year.

    The third telecom player, Dito, is conducting a friendly user test in NCR, Cebu and Davao as part of preparations for its scheduled commercial launch in March 2021.

    Dito confirmed that it has expanded the friendly user test to its employees and selected partners. This program has been in place in controlled environments since March of this year.

    Dito said it is ready to compete on 5G services in the second half of 2021 to deliver its committed internet speed in the country.

    The telco added it has successfully made non-hybrid, pure, standalone 5G video and regular calls last October, to and within the NCR, South Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

    Dito said its 5G network is different from the incumbent telcos’ non standalone 5G network which rides on the core 4G network.

    “This also means that standalone 5G offers more capacity in terms of bandwidth and is more suitable for 5G applications,” Rodolfo Santiago, DITO chief technology officer, said earlier.

    As of end-October this year, Dito has completed building 1,532 towers which are estimated to be more than enough to meet the 37 percent coverage and 27 megabits per second minimum internet speed it has to deliver.

    For this year, PLDT and Globe have allocated P70 billion and P50 billion for capital expenditures, respectively, and they are seen to increase these by at least 20 percent in 2021 driven by the strong demand and market pressure, Fitch Ratings had said.