If there was ever a year in recent memory that Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) considers to be a turning point for the Philippine telecommunications industry, it would be 2012.
Citing several ‘firsts’ which the wireless leader has pioneered in the past year, Rolando G. Peña, network head for Smart, parent company PLDT, and subsidiaries Sun Cellular and Digitel, claims that 2012 was a milestone year especially in terms of introducing new network technologies.
“Many have said that 2012 was going to be the ‘doomsday year’, but for us it was anything but the end,” said Peña. “In fact, 2012 will be remembered as the year modern mobile telecommunication was born,” he said.
In mid-2012, Smart completed super-charging its mobile network under PLDT’s network transformation program. The P67.1 billion endeavour involved the installation and upgrading of network equipment which enabled the company to improve its existing services and to introduce new ones.
Topping the list is the introduction of the Philippines’ first commercially-available Long Term Evolution (LTE) service.
Launched in August, Smart LTE is capable of delivering speeds of up to 42Mbps through the use of a USB dongle or a Pocket WiFi device.
Less than a month later, Smart fired up LTE in multiple bands and made the Philippines’ first LTE call and SMS from Cebu City.
In December the service was made available to Smart Gold postpaid plan subscribers therefore making LTE available on handsets.
“Compared to the LTE services of other providers, SmartLTE is not limited to just one area. Smart LTE can be enjoyed in more than 500 establishments in 10 cities across Metro Manila and in select areas in Boracay, Cebu, and Davao,” Peña said.
Pena explains that though LTE is a wireless technology, the quality of service relies heavily on the use of Fiber Optic Cables (FOCs).
Unlike traditional copper wiring and microwave radios which transmit data through electric and radio signals, fiber optics uses pulses of light beamed through thin wires of glass.
“This ‘optical’ technology allows for efficient, high speed transmission of data even over long distances. We are the only telco that can provide extensive LTE coverage because we have the most extensive Fiber Optic Cable network,” Peña said.
“The PLDT group has more than 54,000 kilometers of Fiber Optic Cables which link up the entire country—more than 3 to 4 times than what our competitors could claim,” said Peña.
Last October, Smart successfully linked all of its Metro Manila cell sites via fiber and completed linking its cell sites with that of sister company Sun Cellular nationwide.
Both projects helped improve the quality of Smart’s call, text, and data services–a that fact was confirmed by major network suppliers and by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the official governing body of the telecommunications industry in the Philippines.
Based on the latest NTC figures from the 3rd quarter of 2012, Smart’s super-charged network bested the competition in terms of the following key performance indices (KPIs): Block Call Rate, Drop Call Rate, Call Set-Up Time, Average Signal Quality, and Average Receive Signal Level.
“What the tests results mean is that Smart subscribers enjoy better-quality service, “said PLDT Smart Spokesperson Ramon Isberto.
“We are able to deliver superior voice, text, and data services even though we have the largest subscriber base,” Isberto said.
The improved network also enabled Smart to introduce the country’s first High Definition (HD) Voice service.
Similar to hearing the difference between AM and FM radio stations, HD voice makes it easier for callers to recognize commonly misheard sounds
HD Voice is initially available in select areas in Makati City and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and can be enjoyed on smartphones running on 3G which are capable of Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB).
For this year, Smart believes that the technological leadership of its network will help HD Multimedia enter mainstream status.
According to Smart Executive Vice President and Wireless Consumer Division Head Emmanuel Lorenzana, Smart’s LTE and HSPA+ services will help Filipinos “create, disseminate and propagate rich media content like never before.”
“Though devices which are capable of generating HD content have been available for years, being able to share HD pictures, music, and videos online has been a challenge,” Lorenzana said.
“Our world class network will help Filipinos make their presence felt on the web wherever they may be in the country,” he ended.