PLDT, together with its mobile arm Smart Communications, has signed a MoU with Huawei Technologies to jointly conduct research and development into 5G mobile technology.
The goal of the partnership is to commercially launch 5G networks in the Philippines by 2020, PLDT said in a statement released this week.
Under the MoU, PLDT and Smart will work with Huawei to shape the strategic and commercial development of a 5G ecosystem in the country.
The companies will identify and develop areas of technical innovation to deliver 5G. Plans include setting up a 5G innovation lab and the creation of a showcase network.
Late last year, Smart and Huawei combined five frequencies through Carrier Aggregation (CA) to achieve data speeds of 1.4 Gbps. Smart also used CA in April 2016 to roll out a LTE-A service. Initially deployed in Boracay and soon in major urban areas such as Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, and Metro Manila, Smart's LTE-A service delivers peak speeds of more than 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable devices.
"Smart is focused on LTE, as it provides us the best platform to bring high-speed mobile internet throughout the country. LTE facilities, with strengthened transport links, can be quickly upgraded to LTE-Advanced (LTE-A), and will be an integral part of our future 5G network,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart.
At present Smart is in the middle of a multi-year, multi-million dollar nationwide network expansion program to improve both coverage and quality of its 4G LTE service. A major leg of this network expansion was recently completed in Metro Davao, where Smart users are already reporting much improved mobile data experience, the operator said.
The rollout is currently underway in Metro Manila and in Metro Cebu, and is expected to significantly boost Smart’s voice, SMS, and mobile data services - especially its indoor LTE coverage - in these urban centers. An upgrade of PLDT's fixed access networks, part of the company’s transformation toward 5G-readiness, is also underway.
“We are focused on ensuring that our current investments in network facilities will enable us to be ready with the necessary infrastructure foundation for 5G when it arrives sometime in 2020," Horn noted.