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Smart to upgrade 40% of sites to 5G by end of next year

SMART COMMUNICATIONS, Inc., the wireless arm of PLDT, Inc. plans to upgrade 40% of its sites to fifth generation (5G) by the end of 2021.

The company said in a press release on Sunday that it will upgrade 4,000 of its base stations to 5G next year, along with deploying an additional 4,000 long term evolution or LTE base stations nationwide. The company rolled out 279 base stations in the third quarter to support its 5G networks.

The PLDT fiber infrastructure supporting Smart’s 4G, 3G, and 2G has reached 422,000 kilometers as of November. Smart has also increased its LTE and 3G base stations to over 58,000, which is 20,000 more than 2019.

Smart has also put up more than 700 new towers so far this year as it plans to reach 726 by the end of 2020.

“Not all of these new sites are already related to the permits we have received so far, as it will take many months after permits have been granted until a site is fully built and operational,” PLDT Chief Technology and Information Advisor Joachim Horn said. “These sites will help us increase our LTE population coverage to 94-95%, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas. This goes along with all other expansion efforts done this year.”

Smart has secured 1,600 permits since the Anti-Red Tape Authority issued a joint memorandum circular that gave way to compliance orders for local government units to release permits for building cell sites. It plans to roll out 2,000 cell sites next year.

PLDT’s investments in capital expenditures or capex reached a total of P432 billion from 2011 to September 2020. It sees a capex of at least P70 billion for 2020.

The company booked a net income of P19.69 billion as of September, up 23% from the same period last year.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Jenina P. Ibañez

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