PLDT Inc. and wireless arm Smart Communications plan to allocate a record PHP88 billion to PHP92 billion (USD1.83 billion to USD1.92 billion) in fiscal 2021 to meet surging demand for data, PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart Communications President and CEO Alfredo S Panlilio announced at the weekend.
Panlilio explained that in order to support the government’s call to improve services, the telco has invested approximately PHP260 billion since 2015 to develop its network infrastructure, including PHP73 billion in 2019 alone. ‘Our CAPEX commitment next year is at a level that will be 20%-25% higher than this year’s CAPEX, focused on expanding our fibre footprint and wireless coverage,’ he added, explaining: ‘We want to benchmark ourselves, not just with local competition, but with our neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam, as we want our network performance to be at par with global companies.’
To date, Smart has deployed more than 10,000 sites across the country, and claims that more than 700 new cell sites will have been added by the end of 2020, despite restrictions and supply chain challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The mobile network expansion drive has helped it to increase population coverage and provide more capacity for high-traffic areas. Further, PLDT’s fibre infrastructure – which now spans more than 422,000km – helps support the mobile unit’s 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks which collectively cover 96% of the population and are present in 95% of cities and municipalities. By the end of last month, Smart had increased the total number of base stations on air to over 58,000, up 20% year-on-year, and rolled out additional 5G sites as it accelerates commercial services nationwide.