Local telcos Globe Telecom and Smart Communications have released an update on their infrastructure rollout, a few months after the government reduced the number of days and requirements for building cellular sites.
Globe disclosed that it was able to secure 1,857 permits for 2020 as a result of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” and other directives from various government agencies such as the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA).
These permits allowed Globe to build 1,050 new sites to date and complete 10,876 upgrades to 4G/LTE. The Ayala-owned operator expects to complete the build of 1,300 new cell sites by the end of 2020.
The new sites, Globe said, were built in areas that needed connectivity the most including Lanao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, Antique, Iloilo, Leyte, Palawan, Aklan, Maguindanao, Cotabato, Misamis Oriental, and Davao del Oro.
The company also said it has activated 5G technology in 708 sites in 17 key cities in Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao. The telco expects to cover 80% of Metro Manila with 5G technology by the end of 2020.
Globe also said it upgraded its existing sites to 4G LTE in over 1,098 cities and municipalities and 80 provinces, which are now experiencing significant improvements in calls, texts, and data services.
For its part, Smart has expanded the number of its LTE and 3G base stations to over 58,000 — an increase of 20% compared to end-2019. The PLDT-owned carrier has also rolled out 496 5G sites as it accelerates its 5G commercial services nationwide.
To date, Smart said it has over 10,000 sites across the country, including more than 700 new towers fired up this year despite mobility restrictions and supply chain challenges due to Covid-19.
“By the end of 2020, we will have fired up 726 new towers within this year,” said Joachim Horn, PLDT chief technology and information advisor.
“Not all of these new sites are already related to the permits we have received so far, as it will take many months after permits have been granted until a site is fully built and operational. These sites will help us increase our LTE population coverage to 94-95%, cover more municipalities and provide more capacity for dense areas. This goes along with all other expansion efforts done this year,” he added.
Next year, Smart said it is further ramping up its 5G and LTE rollout by upgrading to 5G close to 4,000 base stations in key areas across the country to augment data capacity, alongside deploying an additional 4,000 LTE base stations nationwide to support data traffic growth in 2021. “This means that around 40% of our sites will have 5G at the end of next year,” Horn said.
Since ARTA issued its Joint Memorandum Circular in August, Smart said it has secured more than 1,600 wireless permits, which will enable the companies to further expand the reach and capacity of their fixed and wireless networks. Smart is rolling out an additional 2,000 cell sites next year.