Smart activates LTE sites in war-ravaged Marawi City

Resident Analeida Tawan-Tawan was among those whose livelihoods were affected during the Marawi siege. “We left Marawi because we were scared,” said Tawan-Tawan, who owns an e-loading business in the city. “We lost a lot of business with the bombings ongoing.”

Marawi residents Noraldin D. Mangondaya and Analeida Tawan-Tawan were among those who fled the city during the siege

Norjanie Mohammad, who owns a milk tea place in Marawi, was also affected. “We had to stop the business because we had to evacuate to Iligan,” she said. “Many people fled because of the chaos, so the business took a downturn,” said Khalid Dumangcop, who owns a cell phone accessories store.

A year after the fighting, Tawan-Tawan, Mohammad and Dumangcop have returned to Marawi where a lot of reconstruction work still has to be done. But already, they have found that the city already has better mobile data connectivity as PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications has activated LTE and restored connectivity in key areas in the city as part of its network upgrade efforts across Mindanao.

Marawi is among the many areas across Mindanao that are having LTE for the first time, like Malalag, Davao Del Sur; Dapa, Surigao Del Norte; Libungan, North Cotabato; Malapatan, Sarangani; and Tantangan, South Cotabato, to name a few.

To date, 48% of Mindanao sites have now been upgraded to LTE. Of this figure, over half have already been upgraded to LTE-Advanced. In Marawi, Smart maintained close to half of its cell sites in the city operational during the siege, and upgraded to LTE its existing sites outside the “main battle zone” afterwards. These sites are currently serving areas where people now live and work.

With sites now back up, Tawan-Tawan and Dumangcop said their sales are back as well. For Mohammad, a better network also means they can better connect with the rest of the country. “We can now browse the Internet faster and be updated with the news,” she said.

To improve coverage and better serve resettlement areas, Smart is also building more sites in Marawi, as well as continuously expanding the capacity of the existing ones.

“We believe in using technology and connectivity to help people in cities like Marawi rebuild their lives,” said Mario G. Tamayo, PLDT and Smart senior vice president for network planning and engineering. “It’s more than just speeds. By upgrading our networks, we are also informing the citizenry, strengthening local governments, and boosting small businesses.”

“We are also working with device manufacturers to help make more LTE and LTE-A-capable devices available to our customers,” said Tamayo, adding that just like in other countries, the network roll-out must be accompanied by the adoption of LTE and LTE-A-capable mobile phones and devices so that more people can enjoy the improved service.

Other smartphones available with Smart include the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Huawei P20 series, Huawei Mate 10, Samsung Galaxy J2 Pro, and Oppo F5, to name a few.

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