PLDT will be spending a billion dollars a year to improve its Internet service, PLDT and Smart chairman, president, and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan told journalists in an interview last night after the company’s Annual Stockholders’ Meeting in Makati Shangri-la.

“We are quite good at building the relevant infrastructure for Internet and data. And that’s what we’re gonna build, we’re gonna build up to 50,000 WiFi hotspots, we’re gonna Internet the entire country, we want to ‘own’ the Internet, as we did in the case of the mobile network and the fixed line network,” Pangilinan said.

He said the issue now is on the “data infrastructure and if we have to spend a billion dollars a year for the next few years, then so be it, right? That’s how resolved we are in building the relevant infrastructure.”

Manny Pangilinan PLDT
MASSIVE TRANSFORMATION. PLDT and Smart chairman, president, and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan talks to journalists after giving his report in the annual stockholders’ meeting.

Massive effort to transform network

In speaking before company stockholders during their annual meeting, Pangilinan described the CAPEX level of close to a billion dollars this year as a reflection of “a massive effort to transform our networks into the country’s most extensive and data-capable infrastructure.” (See related story)

“Now what rides on that network is another matter: content yun, nobody in the world has a monopoly of content or applications or solutions,” he said.

When asked about criticisms on having the slowest Internet speed in the region, he said, “we’re in the middle of the pack in the ASEAN. We’re not the slowest but of course we’re not the fastest, either… I think we should destroy the myth that we’re the slowest in the region.”

“We are not in disagreement with government, whether this government or the next government that we should improve Internet services. Yes. Totally. No argument. We are violently in agreement. No disagreement there,” he said.

Initial rollout in Cebu, Davao, Manila

But Pangilinan said the rollout will take time. The initial phase will involve the putting up of new cell sites that use the 700 Mhz band they recently bought from San Miguel. He said the company will install 300 such cell sites in Cebu, Davao, and Manila by the end of the year.

During his report, Pangilinan highlighted results of an Internet speed test on a 700 MHz cell site in Tanay, Rizal that used carrier aggregation using the 700 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bands. The engineers clocked a top download speed of 222 Mbps.

Expanding coverage

This initial rollout will be followed by an “expanding coverage” within the next 3 years, he said.

This initial rollout, however, will only benefit those who are using phones that support the 700 MHz band. Pangilinan said they are talking to global manufacturers to add support for this frequency in their devices. This, however, “will take a few months and they will have to bring the price points down.

“Usually, the adoption will hit the A-B sector then move down to the C and then D. Once there are more and more handsets built, then the price points will come down. This is not an instant gratification,” he said.

PLDT Group spokesperson Ramon R. Isberto said MyPhone is set to release within August to September 9 units that support the 700 MHz, including a pocket Wi-Fi.

Pangilinan also highlighted the converged services and offerings of the PLDT group. He said the bundling of such services as fixed line, data, TV and entertainment is to the benefit of the consumer. But, he said, they will also have options of unbundling.

“We want to own the home because that is where the strength of the group is. The fixed line network is a very robust and very extensive network,” he added.

Max Limpag is a journalist, blogger, and developer based in Cebu. He started as a reporter covering Cebu City Hall in 1996. He has written on technology for various print and digital publications since...

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