PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) and Ericsson have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to deploy the country’s first 5G pilot network by the first half of 2019.
Under the MoU, the 5G network will be first deployed in Luzon, the country’s largest and most populous island where about a third of the population work and live.
The 3GPP compliant 5G Trial System that will be deployed in Smart includes Ericsson 5G RAN, Core and Transport solutions. The 5G pilot deployment will allow Smart to explore industry partnership engagements, collaborate with schools and universities, and further develop competence in 5G.
“As 5G opens up more opportunities for new services and solutions to offer to our customers, we are investing in future-proofing our network and making sure that our network is ready for 5G,” said PLDT-Smart chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan.
“Our partnership with Ericsson is part of our commitment to bring to the country the latest technologies to improve the experience of our customers, as well as boost the digital transformation of enterprises and industries,” he added.
“To be able to deliver 5G services to its customers in the future, Smart is upgrading its network’s Core and Transport elements. This includes upgrading to fiber the backhaul connecting the network’s cell sites around the country and deploying 5G-ready equipment in the ongoing LTE roll-out,” according to Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart Senior Vice President for Network Planning and Engineering.
“As we continue to ramp up the roll-out of LTE, LTE-Advanced, and carrier aggregation technology nationwide, we are also making sure that these are already future-proof and 5G-capable,” Tamayo added.
Under its current upgrades, Smart is installing 5G-compatible radio equipment across its network, which now has over 2,000 5G-ready sites.
Testing 5G since 2016
Smart has been testing 5G since 2016 when it achieved with technology partner Nokia 5G speeds of 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) using 100 MHz with latency of just 1 millisecond over a ‘live’ network–the first in the Philippines.
Months later, PLDT and Smart announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with technology partner Huawei Technologies Phils. “to shape the strategic and commercial development of the 5G ecosystem in the Philippines.” In particular, the two parties were looking to identify and develop the areas of technological innovation needed to deliver 5G, which is expected to provide the foundation for the digitally connected society.
In June, Smart launched its 5G TechnoLab, which is the company’s flagship facility for the research and development, standardization, and testing of 5G and is designed to be a sustainable environment for innovative services.
With Huawei, Smart also successfully breached 5G speeds of over 14Gbps in a test held at the 5G TechnoLab using 5G New Radio, in which the second set of global standards have been recently ratified.
Parent company PLDT has committed historic levels of resources for network transformation. For 2018, PLDT capex is expected to reach P58 billion, which includes allocations for the aggressive roll-out of its fiber broadband service, which also supports the stepped-up deployment of the mobile network by providing high-capacity links for cellular base stations.