Smart taps Nokia to pilot-test 5G ‘stand-alone’ in PH schools

In preparation for the eventual commercial roll-out of 5G in the country, PLDT wireless arm Smart Communications and Nokia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to pilot the deployment 5G standalone mobile technology in schools.

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri (right) with PLDT and Smart chair Manuel V. Pangilinan

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri flew in from the company’s headquarters in Helsinki, Finland to personally sign the MOU with PLDT and Smart chair Manuel V. Pangilinan.

PLDT-Smart chief revenue officer Ernesto R. Alberto clarified, however, during a press briefing at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel that the agreement is merely an MOU and not a supplier contract – at least not yet.

“This is just for pilot-testing. We haven’t signed any supplier contract for 5G,” said Alberto, adding that Smart is also working with network vendors Huawei and Ericsson for 5G testing.

Under its MoU with Nokia, PLDT-Smart will collaborate with the Finnish firm in identifying 5G standalone (5G SA) solutions such as artificial intelligence, drones, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications for use in schools, colleges and universities.

This will be done through the combined capabilities of the PLDT-Smart 5G Technolab in Makati and the Nokia Technology Center in Quezon City.

5G SA relies solely on 5G for data transmission, and allows the full benefit of 5G capabilities to be tested and demonstrated. In contrast, 5G NSA (non-standalone) combines the use of 5G and existing 4G/LTE resources to transmit data.

The MoU also covers deploying 5G SA technologies and services such as 5G handsets and applications, for example.

“By working with partners like Nokia in unlocking the full potential of 5G for Filipino enterprises and customers, we are putting the Philippines at par with the rest of the world in preparing for the deployment and adoption of 5G,” said PLDT-Smart chief technology and information advisor Joachim Horn.

Jae Won, head of Asia Pacific and Japan at Nokia, said its pilot-test is one of the firsts in terms of 5G SA deployment.

“This goes beyond just speed. 5G SA enables introduction of services like real-time remote control of robotics and autonomous driving of transport vehicles in the areas of Industrial Revolution 4.0 with new technologies like Network Slicing and Ultra Reliable and Low Latency Communications,” he said.

Smart and Nokia first explored 5G in 2016, when they achieved 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.

As part of its 5G preparations, Smart launched in June 2018 its 5G Technolab, the company’s flagship facility for the research and development, standardization, and testing of 5G.

It has also joined forces with multiple technology and industry partners in launching the country’s first Smart 5G Cities in Pampanga and Makati, after firing up the Philippines’ first 5G cell sites in the Clark Freeport Zone and at the PLDT headquarters in November last year. In the same month, they also successfully made the country’s first 5G-to-5G video call between the two 5G Smart cities.

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