Record permits enable PLDT, Smart network rollout, boosting Philippine internet speeds

PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) widened their lead in the Philippines’ campaign to lift internet speeds, on the back of their sustained rollout of their fixed and wireless networks.

As of June 22, 2021, PLDT and Smart have secured around 22,000 fixed and wireless permits since the government fast-tracked approvals for telco firms last year. This, coupled with the relentless build out despite the risks brought on by the pandemic, has enabled PLDT and Smart to achieve delivering improved customer experience.

According to analysis by Ookla® of Speedtest Intelligence® data, Smart’s average mobile download speeds have almost tripled from 16.60 Mbps to 47.30 Mbps between May 2020 and May 2021, while PLDT’s average fixed download speeds have more than doubled from 27.44 Mbps to 67.91 Mbps in the same period.   

In the latest Speedtest Global Index published by Ookla, the Philippines’ mobile average download speeds were at 31.98 Mbps, whereas average fixed broadband speeds were at 59.73 Mbps. The latest results placed the country at 77th and 65th, respectively, and represent significant improvements from the April 2021 rankings (7 places and 15 places up, respectively). 

“Our nation-widest coverage through wireless and fiber footprint expansion strengthens our foundation as the only integrated telco in the country.  ​Speed in the homes is strengthened by our ongoing fiber rollout, while 5G continues to lift the wireless experience​.  We are leading this charge and will never stop innovating, as we aim to help elevate the country’s overall speeds, taking the Philippines to global heights,” said Alfredo S. Panlilio, PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications President and CEO.

“The significant progress in ranking the past months is due primarily to the Duterte government’s all-out support in expediting the release of LGU permits required for the fast-tracking of improvement of telco infrastructure,” the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) said, adding that speeds are set to go higher as the government looks to fast-track the roll-out of telecommunication companies’ infrastructure.

Among government initiatives that have helped speed up the telco rollout are the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA)’s issuance last year of the Joint Memorandum Circular fast-tracking the issuance of permits and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s recently issued Department Order No. 29 (DO 29), which allows telecommunications companies to occupy a portion of the government Right of Way (ROW). DO 29’s issuance also assists in ensuring the timely maintenance of PLDT’s fiber infrastructure as well as Smart’s cell sites. 

As of end-March, PLDT’s fiber infrastructure is at over 478,000 kilometers across the country. This supports Smart’s mobile network by providing high-capacity links for its more than 63,000 base stations. Smart covers 96% of the population from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi.

Award-winning network

For their efforts at elevating the country’s internet speeds, PLDT and Smart have been hailed by third-party analytics firms like Ookla and Opensignal.

Ookla, the global leader in internet testing and analysis, named PLDT and Smart as the country’s fastest fixed and mobile data network in the second half of 2020 based on customer-initiated tests taken with Speedtest for Q3-Q4 2020. Ookla has also cited Smart as the country’s fastest mobile data network for three years in a row now.  

On the other hand, Smart also recently scored a rare sweep in the April 2021 Philippines Mobile Network Experience Awards* by independent analytics firm Opensignal, beating the competition across all metrics in three essential aspects of service: Coverage (4G Coverage Experience, 4G Availability), Speed (Download and Upload Speed) and Experience (Games, Video and Voice App). This is the first time an operator in the Philippines won decisively in all categories.  

Smart also received the top award from international internet testing organization umlaut, the global benchmarking company formerly known as P3. Smart received the ‘Best in Test’ award and was recognized for delivering the best-rated broadband coverage, user download experience and latency experience, despite challenges of the pandemic and more stringent benchmarking guidelines.

 These initiatives form a large part of PLDT’s capital expenditures, which totaled P460.8 billion in the last ten years. To address the growing data needs of their fixed and wireless customers, PLDT and Smart are prepared to invest between P88 billion and P92 billion in capital expenditures in 2021.