Smart Communications, the wireless arm of Philippine telco PLDT Inc., is pairing up with technology giant Ericsson to deploy a pilot 5G network in the Philippines in H1 2019. PLDT said it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Sweden-based firm for the deployment, which is expected to begin in Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island – home to about a third of the population. Under the plan, Ericsson will install 5G Radio Access Network (RAN), core, and transport solutions which all parties hope will allow the mobile operator ‘to explore industry partnership engagements, collaborate with schools and universities, and further develop competence in 5G’.
Commenting on the initiative, Mario Tamayo, PLDT and Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering, confirmed that the cellco is upgrading its network’s core and transport elements to deliver 5G services to its customers in the future. Under a current programme of improvements, Smart is installing 5G-compatible radio equipment across its network, which now has over 2,000 5G-ready sites. ‘As we continue to ramp up the rollout of LTE, LTE-A and carrier aggregation [CA] technology nationwide, we are also making sure that these are already future-proof and 5G-capable,’ Tamayo said. The mobile arm has been testing 5G since 2016, when – working with technology partner Nokia – it reportedly achieved 5G speeds of 2.5Gbps using 100MHz with latency of just one millisecond over a live network. In addition to the above, PLDT and Smart have also entered into a partnership with Huawei Technologies Philippines ‘to shape the strategic and commercial development of the 5G ecosystem in the Philippines’.