PLDT, Smart power PH digital economy

PLDT Chairman, President and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan is looking to push the digital envelope across the various companies that he leads, as the pandemic cements the pivot online.

At the recent Philippines In View 2021 virtual seminar organized by the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA), Pangilinan talked about the importance of putting some “digital flavor” even for tollways and water companies.

“My sense is that we have to be more digital than we are today, to really move up the value chain,” Pangilinan said during his keynote conversation with AVIA CEO Louis Boswell. “I think if we could push the digital envelope among these various companies – the tollways, the water business, and the like – I think we would have more value,” he added. Aside from PLDT, other Pangilinan-led companies include Maynilad Water Services and Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.

Digital transformation

Pangilinan also highlighted how the digital transformation undertaken by PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. five years ago is now powering the country’s digital economy, as the pandemic accelerates the use of digital wallets and as more people turn to the internet for work, education and entertainment.

“We started our digital transformation sometime in 2016. That involved making our network fully IP-based, completing our 3G network, and starting to build out our 4G network,” Pangilinan recalled. “And then sometime in 2020, we started to build out our 5G Network. We are, on the wireless side, 100% digital.”

Pangilinan also highlighted the transformation of PLDT’s fixed line network, starting with the digital backbone covering the entire country. “Now we are taking out the copper infrastructure of PLDT and making it a fully fiber network. So, the network is now fully digital,” he said.

This network infrastructure has enabled the pandemic-induced digital shift.  “Because of the virus, more people and the government have been persuaded to use, for example, cashless payments. That has made digital wallets more prevalent in terms of usage,” Pangilinan said.

Content, customer experience are key

As more Filipinos stream video online, content has become an important part of customer experience, putting Pangilinan-led media companies, like Cignal and TV5, in a good position to synergize with PLDT and Smart.

“The trick is in the ability to ensure that these companies are converged, that they are able to lend their content to the wireless side or pay TV side of the business,” he said.

For Smart, Pangilinan emphasized that customer experience is still the priority. “In the case of Smart, what is very important is the customer experience. This includes the digital wallet; content–specifically video; the ability to tell stories; the ease and the comfort of using your phone to access the internet. There is a broad range of services that need to be offered, including education, entertainment and work from home solutions as well,” Pangilinan said.

Powering the country’s digital economy is PLDT’s fiber infrastructure, the country’s most extensive at over 478,000 kilometers as of end-March 2021. This infrastructure also supports Smart’s mobile network, which has been consistently hailed as the country’s fastest by third-party analytics firms like Ookla and Opensignal. This mobile network also covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.